Back in middle school, Andy Bauer would come home from his training sessions at Fitzmaurice Performance with his nose busted up, with the occasional black eye, and be dog-tired to boot.
Bauer is currently ranked as the nation’s No. 8 offensive tackle by 247Sports, and the No. 81 prospect overall by the 247Composite.
No surprise, as he had just got done doing 1-on-1s against NFL players like Keith Williams and Mike McNeil, two former Nebraska standouts, along with several CFL athletes and other top local talent.
Williams, McNeil and company would take young Bauer into the bounce room and show him the proper technique he needed to be an elite offensive lineman on the next level and beyond. Bauer soaked it up like a sponge and couldn’t wait to take his lumps from the older, stronger and more experienced players. The recipe worked as the Saint Louis (Mo.) DeSmet standout is now one of the nation’s top players at his position in the class-of-2014.
“That was something that made me tough,” Bauer said. “Instead of going against kids my age, I was going against guys a lot older. It taught me how to keep fighting and take a beating and keep moving forward. Like the saying says, never give up and take everything they throw at you. It’s not like they were bullying me. I was all for trying to get me better.”
By the time Bauer got to DeSmet for his freshman year, playing against high school kids was a breeze.
Currently ranked as the nation’s No. 8 offensive tackle by 247Sports, and the No. 81 prospect overall by the 247Composite, Bauer moved into the starting lineup as a ninth grader and with his high football IQ, he quickly became the one to make all the calls across the line of scrimmage.
“He came in experienced and very well coached,” DeSmet coach Pat Mahoney began. “It helps that he is an absolute sponge when it comes to football and offensive line play. He can spend hours talking about hand placement, how to defeat a technique and all the stuff that goes into being a great player. It’s almost obsessive.
“Aside from the fact that he’s had great technique since he walked in the door is his aggressive nature,” Mahoney continued. “He’s a kid that wants to bend you over backward and put you on your back. He’s a very aggressive and physical kid, and he loves the challenge of playing against good players.”
Mahoney landed at DeSmet by way of the state of Florida where he still has several college coaching contacts including Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe. Mahoney gave his buddy Kehoe a call regarding Bauer following that freshman season. Next thing everyone knew, Bauer had a verbal offer from the Hurricanes.
Bauer's top six heading into the winter is Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri and Oklahoma.
“He simply looked at the film and said damn Pat, I’ve only offered one other freshman and this one is going to be the second,” Mahoney laughed.
Missouri quickly followed suit and fast forward to now and Bauer is currently sitting on roughly 35 offers. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri and Oklahoma are in the best position for Bauer’s services as he heads into the winter.
Football Is In The Genes
Bauer’s father Craig was a defensive lineman holding a scholarship offer from Iowa State and a few other smaller schools as he was playing his senior year of high school.
Then in one snap, everything changed in an instant.
Playing against future Oklahoma running back Anthony Stafford, Bauer put his head down to make a tackle on the goal line, and the result was tragic. The elder Bauer broke a couple discs, had a hairline fracture in his vertebrae and was paralyzed in the right arm. He wasn’t able to go back to school for five months.
“I’m lucky I’m walking and in good shape,” Craig said. He also regained use of his arm. “Knock on wood it could have been worse.”
Craig’s father played college football. His brother Mark played at Drake and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy has a cousin that played tight end at Pennsylvania. His little brother Robby will join him as a starter on the offensive line at DeSmet next fall.
Bauer can play all three offensive line positions.
“It kind of runs through us,” Craig said, never hesitating to sign his sons up for the sport they all love.
“I realized mine was a freak injury. I believed in letting them play. It’s their life. I played it. Almost everyone in my family played it.”
Andy almost gave up on football before his career even started. As he was about to sign up for the local peewee league at six-years old, he found out he’d have to play with older kids because of his weight. Andy and Craig headed back to the car for a chat.
“He says I don’t know,” Craig remembered. “We talked about things and I said it’s up to you, I’m not going to force you to go to practice and be on you. After talking, he said by golly I’m going to play Dad.”
Bauer started digesting everything. He learned defensive-line fronts and schemes. He worked to get bigger, faster and stronger. Playing AAU basketball helped him with his feet. Along with the regular training stops at Fitzmaurice, next thing you know, Bauer became a blue-chipper.
“It’s still surreal to him and he doesn’t take anything for granted,” Craig said. “That’s what I love about him the most. He works out so hard. He’s always looking over his shoulder and he wants to be the best and knows someone is always trying to beat you out.”
Going The Extra Mile
The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Bauer can play every offensive line position.
He can squat close to 600 pounds, and he can bench press 345 pounds.
Every day, Bauer does 100 shotgun snaps after his workout with his brother Robby. His younger brother by 18 months is by his side in the weight room as well.
“That’s one of the biggest blessings I have in my life,” Bauer said. “My brother and I are extremely close. He’s been with me since seventh grade working with me at a goal people said was crazy. He’s been with me every step of the way, never doubted me, always been there for a spot in the gym and to catch shotgun snaps at home.”
Robby Bauer battled injuries this year but he was able to earn some varsity snaps. His first varsity play, the Bauer brothers were lined up next to each other and on a 34-power play, the two combined to drive and pancake a defender seven yards downfield.
“I don’t know if there was a better feeling in my life,” Andy said of that play. “It’s something you dream of, playing with your brother and finally having the opportunity on the varsity level, it was amazing moment.”
They look forward to many more memories next fall.
“He’s a good role model to have and to compare yourself to,” Robby said. He checks in at 6-foot-3, 270-pounds himself. “It’s good to have a brother that is always there and have a guy you can look up to as a player. For one his work ethic and two he’s level-headed. He’s not cocky or anything. If it was me, I’d be a little cocky if I had 35 scholarships offers. He’s calm and doesn’t get ahead of himself.”
In fact, after Andy is done with his shotgun snaps, he fields his brother’s long snaps.
Six In The Mix
Bauer’s competitive attitude isn’t just for the athletic fields. In the classroom, he takes all honors classes and has a 4.8 GPA. Craig Bauer says the academic prowess comes from his wife’s side of the family.
As Bauer continues to work his way through the recruiting process, the six schools he’s looking at the hardest are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri and Oklahoma. In his eyes, those schools give him the best opportunity to excel both on and off the football field.
Early in the recruiting process, Bauer thought he found his future home, giving his pledge to the in-state Tigers back in April. However, as time went on, Bauer wasn’t sure he had processed all the information in making the most informed college decision.
“I just thought I was very young to make a decision like that,” Bauer said. “I had so many great options to explore and I thought I owed it to myself to open things up and look around and find the best fit possible for me.”
Bauer knows he’s going to have a tough final decision on his hands as he breaks down each school.
Alabama: “I really have a good relationship with Coach (Jeff) Stoutland. That’s important. Obviously Coach (Nick) Saban, he’s been there for a while and they recruit very well and they get great players and I’d be going against the best players every day and have a chance to win National Championships and hopefully get on field early too.”
Arkansas: “Coach (Bret) B(ielema), I really liked him at Wisconsin and everything, and then Coach (Jim) Chaney and Coach (Sam) Pittman are two coaches that recruited me at Tennessee. I’ve talked to Coach Pittman twice a week and we’ve really hit it off. Coach B is a big o-line guy and Coach Pittman has a great track record of getting guys to the league.”
Florida: “I like Coach Tim Davis. I really like Coach (Will) Muschamp. Florida football, it’s the school I grew up watching. Just always heard a lot about The Swamp and they need linemen. Coach Davis said they really need linemen and I’m a guy they feel strongly about, and I’m a guy that could come in and contribute, and I’m really looking forward to my visit there.”
LSU: “I really enjoy talking to Coach (Greg) Studrawa. He’s a really great guy. (LSU 2013 commit) Ethan Pocic and I have built a really good relationship. I talked to him once a week. We talked on the phone (Tuesday) night. He never pressures me to LSU but he tells me they want me and need me. I’m setting up a visit down there. I haven’t been down there to see Baton Rouge, and I look forward to hanging out with Coach Studrawa and Coach (Les) Miles and the rest of the guys and see what it’s all about. LSU is another school that year in and year out competes for National Championships.”
Missouri: Coach (Josh) Henson is the coach that mainly recruits me and I have a good relationship with Coach (Gary) Pinkel as well. It’s a school I grew up watching and everything and my Dad went to Missouri and my uncle went to Missouri. It’s just really close to home. I’m friends with some of the guys they have committed. That’s cool and them playing in the SEC now is another plus.”
Oklahoma: “My former high school teammate Durron Neal goes there. I enjoy talking to Coach (James) Patton and Coach (Bruce) Kittle. They always get really good players and I think it would be cool to play with Durron who I’m still pretty close with. Just a nice opportunity and I visited there my freshman year and I’m going to set up another visit there pretty soon. It’s a beautiful place and all, and a place I see myself having a lot success.”
During the fall, Bauer visited Alabama and Missouri for games. He’s set to visit Florida for four days beginning on Jan 17. A trip to LSU will be sometime at the end of January. A return stop at Oklahoma is targeted for February. That’s what’s currently on the calendar.
“I want to be comfortable at the school,” Bauer said of what he’s looking for. “Position coaches and strength coaches are not guaranteed to be there your whole time, but that does play a factor because that’s the guys you’ll be spending the majority of your time with between meetings, practices and workouts. I’d say those guys, and the vibe I get from the players there because those are the guys I’ll be going to war with every week.”
Those will also be the guys Bauer will get his nose busted up with, get the occasional black eye, and come home dog-tired to boot.
Steve Wiltfong is a National Writer for 247Sports. Follow him on Twitter @swiltfong247