"He came in the first couple of weeks of spring football and hadn't played on the varsity team," said Dylan Collie. "He played two years and never played at the varsity level. He was kind of that kid that was sort of in between and wasn't certain what he wanted to do.
"Come his senior year, he didn't fully realize the commitment it was going to take, so it took him the first two weeks of spring to finally realize. Then one morning during spring ball, I literally think someone must have hit him in the face or something."
In an instant, Andrus' football mindset changed into that of a full-blown gridiron animal.
"He went from uncertainty to one morning coming in and his mindset and body language just transformed overnight," said Collie. "It was like a complete 180 degree change. I was like, ‘Roman, did something happen?' and he was like, ‘No, I'm just excited to play now. I just want to get some time on the field.' His original goal was just to play a little bit and not even start, but just get some time in the rotation."
Andrus worked his tail off, not knowing what the results would be. Then, after the first game of the season, an opportunity was placed before him that changed everything.
"He kept working hard and it came down to the last week of our first game, and the guy that was supposed to start at the defensive end got hurt," Collie said. "Roman was the backup, and so he came in and all of a sudden he was getting through the o-line like it was nobody's business. This was happening snap after snap after snap after snap. We were like, ‘Holy crap, where on Earth did Roman come from?' It was incredible to see."
Andrus was a late bloomer of sorts, and for BYU that was a good thing.
"When we were kids, Roman wasn't the most confident person in himself," Collie said. "He was always kind of shorter and a little bit chubbier growing up as a kid, and he never really had a growth spurt until this year. I was like, ‘Okay, let's see how this first game goes.' He comes out that first game and has, like, two sacks, bats down a couple balls – I would say three or four were batted down – and has a couple running back sacks and about nine tackles, where six or seven were in the backfield."
At the next team meetings, when helmet stickers were handed out for the previous game performance, the one player who started in his first varsity game received the most.
"That next Thursday during our team meeting we went in to collect our stickers, our game awards, and Roman came out with around 10, which was the most on the team. That went on week after week after week, and now this kid is just wreaking havoc in the backfield. He is just balling out and didn't have a game without sacking the running backs in the backfield, batting down two or three balls in the backfield, or making a sack.
"The thing is, this wasn't happening against teams that were soft and not very talented. This was happening against teams that were state title contenders, defending state champions, section championship winners and a runner-up section championship team. Out of our 12 games, we played five teams that were either in the section championship, won the section championship, or won the state title, and he was making an impact after impact on that d-line just rushing people."
As a first-year varsity starter, Andrus received the highest nomination in his league.
"Roman actually became First-Team All-League at the defensive end in a league where the defensive end position is full of talent," said Collie. "The one guy that might be in front of him is heading to Nebraska."
What makes Andrus' accomplishments even more noteworthy is the fact that as a future preferred walk-on for BYU, his performance beat out other defensive end recruits with scholarship offers in hand.
"All the other guys that he's beaten out in our league by being named a First-Team All-League selection are all D-I guys that are all on scholarships," said Collie. "He is a raw talent that I know Coach Kaufusi is going to turn into an absolute beast on BYU's defensive line."
Finding out that he had the chance to play football at BYU was special for Andrus.
"When I first found out I was excited beyond belief," Andrus said. "I grew up watching BYU all my life and I loved it. When I first found out, I was in shock the whole day. I knew Dylan was going there on a football scholarship, and so for me to have a chance just to be on the team was unbelievable."
Andrus then went and told his friend and teammate about the exciting news.
"Roman was really excited and said, ‘Haven't you heard?'" said Collie. "I was like, ‘No, what's going on?' He said that he had been offered and accepted a preferred walk-on spot to play at BYU. It was one of those things where I don't think he expected it. With the help of my dad [Scott Collie], you know, it was just kind of up in the air and [my dad] said, ‘Well, let's see what we can do.' To hear that he had a spot this summer was overwhelming for him."
Upon hearing the news, Collie was proud of Andrus.
"I was extremely excited because it never seemed to be a possibility to Roman, but I knew after watching him the first couple of game that he could play Division I football. He definitely has the body to play Division I football, the skill sets, the work ethic and the smartness – that football smartness – to play at that level at BYU. He's going to give it everything he has. "
"I really don't need Christmas now because I've already gotten all that I wanted, and it came early," Andrus said jokingly.
Having been offered a preferred walk-on position now, Andrus will have a chance to prove himself to BYU coaches and earn a scholarship before serving an LDS mission.
"They spoke to me and said they were out of scholarships for this year," Andrus said. "I'm just so stoked to be on the team and I'm not worried about it and sure I can earn one after my mission. I'm just working hard to get ready to come out that camp next summer bigger, stronger and faster to try and make an impression that first day."
If news of this diamond in the rough gets out to other programs , they don't need to bother offering a scholarship. That's because his heart is set on BYU.
"Honestly, I have such a strong family connection to BYU," he said. "I had a grandfather that was an art professor there, and my grandparents' house is literally a block away from the Marriot Center. My dad always told me, ‘Son, if you work really hard in school, someday you can come here,' and I just thought that would be the coolest thing ever.
"BYU has always been a dream of mine and a special place for me. I love it there, so if one of those schools offered me a scholarship and all I had was a preferred walk-on from BYU, I would tell them, ‘Sorry, I'm going to BYU and I'm a Cougar.' I'm so excited to play for BYU that I wouldn't have it any other way, even if one of those schools offered me a scholarship to play."
Collie has nothing but praise for Andrus and feels his childhood friend will be a great fit for BYU, not just as an athlete but as a student as well.
"I think Roman might be too smart for his own good," Collie said with a laugh. "Roman is absolutely brilliant. At school, he does extremely well without really doing anything. You know those kind of guys that just doesn't have to do anything in school to get straight A's when taking A.P. classes? He's one of those guys and it's almost like school isn't a challenge for him, and he's almost bored with school. Roman is by far one of the smartest human beings I've ever known, and he'll be able to take that and marry it with his skill sets and that newly created passion that he has for football to be an incredible player.
Andrus will not only bring his intellect to the team, but a high-energy, positive disposition that will be infectious among his new teammates.
"He's not one of those kids where he's played football for 10 years and then he gets to college and has to do things where he's like, ‘Oh my gosh! I have another year of going to meetings every day and another year of going to workouts every day,'" said Collie. "It's going to be one of those things where he's going to eat it up like a little kid and can't wait for the next day to go to team meetings, where he can't wait for that next workout, can't wait for that next practice or that next game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. He's always positive and always has a smile on his face. He's just a great kid and makes all the right decisions and will be a great addition to BYU's football program."
Collie watched his close, lifelong friend Roman Andrus grow from a short, chubby, unconfident and unassuming boy to a confident beast on the football field. Being able to continue playing football with his childhood friend will make his time at BYU even more special.
"For me, it's just exciting and great for me to have a childhood friend come play football with me at BYU," Collie said. "It's going to be fun to have Roman, in whom I've stood on the sidelines with since I was eight years old, be on the sidelines with me at BYU. For us to be able to play football together at BYU in front of all those fans and at LaVell Edwards Stadium is just going to be incredible and a special thing for the both of us."
"We've been playing together since we were little kids, ever since we were little Trojans running around playing Pop Warner football," said Andrus. "It is so surreal playing with my buddy that I've known since we were little and have been hanging out together since we were eight or nine years old. Our families are really good friends and it's kind of crazy and it still hasn't set in for me. Just playing football with Dylan last year, you know, it was a special feeling for me and we've always had a special feeling being together on the sideline. When you develop that special companionship, and knowing that you'll be able to take that with you when you on the sidelines at BYU, is going to be special for the both of us."