By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
NAPPANEE — “I’m home.”
With those words, Nate Andrews introduced himself to the NorthWood community as the Panthers’ new head football coach Monday night.
Andrews, a 1996 NorthWood graduate and member of the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame, looked out on an assemblage of area media, NorthWood players, his family, and community members, and smiled.
“This is way too big a deal,” Andrews said. “It’s not about me …It’s about NorthWood football, and it’s about the Wa-Nee community.”
Andrews was approved as coach by the Wa-Nee School Board earlier in the evening.
Andrews has been a head coach since 2007 and has a lifetime mark of 40-39. He coached at Lapel from 2007-11, where he led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 mark and a sectional title in 2008. For the past two season, Andrews has been the head coach at Western, where the Panthers were 9-3 and a sectional finalist this season.
Andrews is the son of legendary late Panther coach Jim Andrews, also a member or the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. The elder Andrews compiled 19 straight winning seasons with a career total of 150 victories and 67 losses. His 20-year average was 7.5 victories per season. His teams won five NLC championships, six sectional titles, three regional titles and twice were state runners-up.
Andrews said he’s looking forward to coaching the Panthers - and being at NorthWood is his dream job.
“There’s not another place out there that I’d rather be,” Andrews said.
And it’s “very emotional” for Andrews to return home as the head coach at the place where he not only toiled as a player, but his father coached.
“My dad is my role model, my idol, and he always will be,” Andrews said. “I’ll always strive to do the things that he taught me.”
Andrews had a chance to meet with some of his new players on Monday, and at least one of them came away highly impressed.
Junior linebacker Derek Weldy said he and his teammates are excited about playing for their new coach.
“I feel like he can give us the spark we need to get our program back on track,” Weldy said.
NorthWood athletic director Norm Sellers said about 50 inquiries and 19 actual applications were received for the position vacated by Scott Hoover at the end of the 2012 season, which ended for the Panthers with a 4-6 record and first-round sectional loss at East Noble.
“Nate was our guy,” Sellers said. “He did things the right way, and waited until his season at Western was over.”
There was a sense of urgency to get a new coach hired quickly, Sellers said.
The plan is to bring Andrews into NorthWood in a teaching position during the current school year, Sellers added. Until that happens, Andrews will remain in his current position at Western.
Andrews was a three-sport star for the Panthers: In football, he was a three-time letterwinner who helped the Panthers win three NLC titles; in wrestling, he was a four-time letterwinner and 1996 state champion at 171 pounds; and in track, he was a four-time letterwinner who won seven NLC titles.