Football Legend: Former Salisbury coach now in Tarboro HoF
Published 12:07 am Thursday, June 4, 2015
SALISBURY — The phone call informing Gus Andrews he’d been selected as part of Tarboro’s inaugural Hall of Fame class was unexpected and overwhelming.
The Tarboro Hall of Fame’s 15-member class of 2015 includes football legend Kelvin Bryant, Andrews’ high school coach Doug Alexander and baseball pitcher Mike Caldwell, runner-up for the 1978 American League Cy Young Award.
Andrews was honored in his hometown, where he was a prep All-America, on May 23.
“To be in that first Hall of Fame class was as humbling an experience as I’ve had,” Andrews said. “Not just because of the athletes I was inducted with but because of the great ones not inducted yet.”
Andrews has called Salisbury home since he was hired to teach and coach the Salisbury High football team prior to the 1985 season. But his story starts in Tarboro where his father was a millworker and sold fruit on the side. Andrews worked with his father in the fruit business, but when he had spare time, he kicked footballs and shot baskets.
He was 5-foot-9 but stoutly built and he starred for Tarboro’s Vikings as a fullback, linebacker and kicker in football. He was an all-conference basketball player and started at third base in baseball.
Tarboro hadn’t had a track program, but when Tarboro moved up to play bigger schools Andrews’ senior year, eight of the football players competed in the conference track meet.
“We thought we could run barefooted,” Andrews said with a laugh. “That didn’t work out, but we did finish second.”
Andrews sprinted, long jumped and pole vaulted.
Andrews played in the East-West All-Star Game and signed with N.C. State’s football program.
After a season on the freshman team, he was part of three straight Wolfpack teams (1963-65) that won or shared ACC titles for coach Earle Edwards.
All but one of his classmates redshirted as sophomores. That led to Andrews becoming the only player in N.C. State history to letter on three straight ACC championship teams.
“This was before they had kicking specialists, so one of the regular players did the kicking,” Andrews said. “Linebacker was my forte, but it was kicking that moved me ahead.”
This was 1963, and President John Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, Nov. 22.
Many football games scheduled for Nov. 23 were postponed, but the Wake Forest-N.C. State game went on as scheduled. Andrews set an ACC record that day by kicking six extra points.
“We won and won big, but it was a somber time,” Andrews said. “No one felt like celebrating.”
After an 8-2 regular season, the Wolfpack accepted an invitation to play Mississippi State, led by future AFL stars Hoyle Granger and Ode Burrell, in the Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia. Two Southern teams played in frigid conditions. It was 20 degrees at game time. The wind howled. The coffee in the pressbox froze. Ballpoint pens wouldn’t write. The Wolfpack was fortunate to wear winter underwear borrowed from the Philadelphia Eagles or players would have frozen.
Sideline heaters had been promised, but there were electrical issues. Andrews remembers radiators being employed that provided limited warmth.
“You couldn’t feel the heat if you were more than a few inches away,” Andrews said. “They expected 35,000 fans, but it snowed all week. They cleared snow off a section of the stands for people to sit. The field was frozen. I kicked off to start the game and my foot was so cold that it hurt. I remember thinking that I hope we don’t score because I’ll have to kick off again.”
The Wolfpack lost 16-12 in conditions that convinced the Liberty Bowl to vacate Philadelphia. After a year in Atlantic City, the Liberty Bowl found a new home in Memphis.
The trip home from Philly was as harrowing as the game.
“Coach Edwards said anyone that could find a ride home from Philadelphia would be reimbursed half the cost of a plane ticket,” Andrews said. “I rode home with three teammates. We kept waiting for the heater to warm up, but it never did. We had one London Fog coat between us and we shared it in shifts.”
Andrews’ 1964 season was notable for kicking the winning PAT in a 14-13 win against Maryland.
“We had our first kicking specialist that year, but Coach had me kick that PAT because I’d been in crucial situations before,” Andrews said. “That was the last extra point I kicked for N.C. State.”
Andrews’ distinguished coaching career began with N.C. State’s freshman team in 1966. Then he was hired by Wilson’s Fike High as offensive coordinator.
Andrews’ arrival in Wilson in 1967 coincided with the arrival of running back Carlester Crumpler, a legend in North Carolina football. In three seasons, head coach Henry Trevathan’s Cyclones went 36-3 and won three straight 4A state titles. In the 1967 state championship game, Crumpler scored four TDs in the second half against South Meck.
“We were the smallest 4A school in the state, but we had something special going on,” Andrews said.
Andrews returned to N.C. State from 1969-71 as linebackers coach and recruiter.
From 1971-76 he enjoyed success in the corporate world as national sales manager of Russell National Sports Socks.
From 1976-81, Andrews directed East Carolina’s Pirate Club and led that organization’s growth from a small booster club to a multi-million dollar foundation.
He was still a football guy at heart, however, and Andrews returned to Wilson Fike to become head coach in 1981. His teams there went 32-12 in four seasons.
Andrews was announced as the new Salisbury football coach in May 1985. That’s when he and his wife, Barbara, came here.
“They’d offered the job to (Fayetteville’s) Bob Paroli first, and he recommended me,” Andrews said.
Andrews came to Salisbury largely for the future of his son, Tripp, a talented player who would go on to excel at Richmond. Salisbury also agreed to let Andrews bring three staffers from Fike. Two did come — Richard Pridgen, a world-class power lifter, and Russell Weinstein.
“The Salisbury program was in disarray,” Andrews said. “We got brick donated and got a weight room built. We installed discipline. We got things moving in a positive direction.”
The freshmen when Andrews arrived went 10-2 when they were seniors in 1988. They were CCC champions and the first team to win nine regular-season games at Salisbury since 1933.
Andrews started the school’s swimming program and coached powerhouse teams that annually won championships at varying levels. Salisbury’s 1995 boys team won the 2A state title and did it with zero diving points.
Andrews went into the real estate business in 1990 and he’s served as a Rowan County commissioner and board chairman. He even finds time to act now in Piedmont Players productions.
His competitive fire is now directed to golf.
Last year, he placed fourth in World Senior Amateur tournament in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
He’s been North Carolina Senior Games state champion four times and has finished as high as ninth in the National Senior Games. He’ll compete again in the nationals in Minneapolis in July.
“A lot has worked out in my life,” Andrews said. “But the Tarboro Hall of Fame is a thrill. When they told me, I almost fell out of my chair.”