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Bucking the odds

If Andrew Trowbridge didn't look to a higher power, it would be easy to see how he could've joined an endless list of what-ifs who never reached their potential.
/ Source: News-Journal Online.com

If Andrew Trowbridge didn't look to a higher power, it would be easy to see how he could've joined an endless list of what-ifs who never reached their potential. He was the child of a teen pregnancy. He's spent much of his life in a single-parent home, raised by his father, Robert Trowbridge. Shana Trowbridge, his mother, has tried, but her lifestyle has not been conducive with being a very big part of her son's life.

"I don't talk to her really. She'll end up stopping by a few times. I saw her (last) week, but it's not very often and we're just not close at all," Andrew Trowbridge said. "It was always hard because it's nice having the mom there. A dad can't be a mom and a mom can't be a dad. It was tough growing up not having a mom, definitely. It was just always me and my dad."

As a junior, when the Warner standout was leaping up football recruiting lists, he suffered a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for almost all of his senior football season.

Trowbridge never lost faith. And this weekend, a Division I-AA football scholarship long secured, he stands to be rewarded. Trowbridge can become Warner Christian's first state weightlifting champion at the Class A meet Friday at Gainesville's Santa Fe Community College. In the process, he could bench-press a year of painful memories and reminders.

"It would be nice to top it off with a state championship and hopefully a record or two. I'm going there to be the best of the best," Trowbridge said.

At Warner, he's been just that. Two years before his parents' separation, Andrew was enrolled there. He has been a model student-athlete, and, arguably, the best athlete to ever come through the school. After this weekend, there may not be any doubt left.

"He definitely is an example-setter on the weightlifting (platform) and on the field," football teammate John Seravalli said, "but he's also a big example to everyone as far as the classroom and just being in the halls. He's the kind of person you want to surround yourself with to where you know you won't get in trouble. And if you need anything, you go to him.

"He's just been a very good example to a lot of the kids the last few years in our school. I know a lot of people look up to him. He might be late to school every once in a while but that's about it."

He started on the varsity football team as an eighth-grader and has been the team's Goliath ever since. Trowbridge was Warner Christian's lone News-Journal first-teamer in 2003 and 2004, picked up all-state accolades both years and racked up more than 2,600 yards rushing -- including a school-record single-season 1,741 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2003 as a sophomore. He also had 277 tackles in those two seasons.

A year ago, with a chiseled 6-foot, 230-pound frame, good grades, athleticism and statistics to match, he opened five to seven letters a day from the country's top football programs.

"People were calling us right and left and he obviously got hundreds of letters," Warner football coach Andy Price said. "I don't know how many college coaches we had come through last spring, 15-20. Not small schools, but big Division I schools. He had a lot of interest, particularly Florida and Miami."

Trowbridge had high hopes for not only a state football championship, but the big-time Division I scholarship. But after three weeks of spring workouts Trowbridge's senior season -- for all intents and purposes -- came to an abrupt end in a spring exhibition game.

While running a toss sweep to the short side, the standout running back and linebacker went to cut up field when -- without any contact -- his knee buckled and he went down. In pain.

"I'd never felt anything like that before. I was scared to death at that point. I was scared it was something serious. I couldn't believe it," Trowbridge said. "You just always live life thinking, 'Oh, that's not going to happen to me.' It just happens to everyone else around you.

"It seemed like the end of life, which is kind of ridiculous to think, but when you're so into something and you focus on it for so long it just seems like everything is gone and lost."

Examinations revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and a strained medial cruciate ligament. The injury required surgery, which could not be performed until late June when the swelling had receded.

While his teammates prepared for the season, Trowbridge became the forgotten wonder when it came to colleges. The letters and phone calls stopped.

In October, Division I-AAs Liberty University and Bethune-Cookman College came calling. Then, five months after surgery a 75-percent healthy Trowbridge played defensive end for the Eagles in their state semifinal loss to Graceville.

Trowbridge, who later signed with Liberty, had used the time off to get stronger and rehab. The football team's loss was the weightlifting team's gain.

"I knew about Andrew Trowbridge since his sophomore year," said Robert Wimberly, linebackers coach at Liberty University and a Miami native. "I just stayed on him and just followed him. Of course he hurt his knee and I didn't know how bad it was. I got a call that he was not being recruited and I was shocked.

"You're not going to get too many kids like that. He's a young man that I would say, for his age he's very mature. All that to me said, 'I can't miss on this kid.' You can see the fire in his eyes. Our staff, we knew we were going to come out in a positive way."

buddy.shacklette@news-jrnl.com