At this time a year ago, Curtis Andrews was coaching the Grand Rapids Community College Raiders defensive players and preparing them for their next game against Ellsworth Community College. Due to the abrupt cancellation of the football team last winter after an undefeated season, Andrews now lives a different life.
The cancellation of the football program hurt Andrews just as much as it did the football players. He remembers the day President Ender broke the news as if it were yesterday.
“It felt like death. It felt like I had lost a dear friend,” Andrews said.
Prior to the dismissal from the team, former Raiders Head Coach Tony Annese, now at Ferris State University, recommended Andrews be appointed the new head coach. Obviously, things didn’t go as planned.
“I found out about the team being cancelled 20 minutes before the players did,” Andrews said. “I was shocked because I actually thought I was going to become the new head coach. I wanted the position.”
When asked what he misses most about Raider football, Andrews said, “Game days, road trips and just the relationships built between all of us. When you’re on the road, you bond together because it’s just you and your players and no one else.”
Even though the team is no longer around, Andrews stills keeps in contact with the former players who transferred to other schools to play football again. “I still get text messages from players keeping me updated on how they are doing.”
One of the players who still keeps in contact with Andrews is Anthony Johnson, 19, of Detroit. The former wide receiver remembers the day the team was shut down as well.
“There was nothing I could do about it. I just wish they would have told us earlier,” Johnson said. “I wanted to cry. I won’t even lie about it.”
Both Andrews and Johnson decided to stay at GRCC even though they knew the team would no longer compete.
“I was offered a job from Coach Annese to come coach at Ferris State, but I just decided the timing wasn’t right for me,” Andrews said.
Johnson stayed for an entirely different reason.
“I didn’t feel like moving back home because I was already here, so I decided to stay,” he said. Johnson still goes to school at GRCC and works in his spare time. He also plans to transfer and play football again but is undecided on where that will be.
Andrews still has the passion to coach again but has no timeline on when he will pace the sidelines once more. “When the time is right, I will coach again. Now just isn’t the right time in my life.”
Andrews doesn’t believe the program will be resurrected due to the difficulties of starting from scratch. However, he doesn’t want people to forget what the 80-year-long GRCC football program stood for.
“I want people to remember GRCC football as a program that changed people’s lives,” he said. “It gave players second chances in life when they could have been doing something else. It changed the directions of many players’ futures, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Andrews is now the assistant athletic director of GRCC, as well as an eligibility specialist. He would have been going into his twelfth season as a GRCC coach.
He played middle linebacker at GRCC in 1997 and in 1998 before transferring to the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff where he also played linebacker and earned All Conference honors.