DETROIT – Greek-American Andrew Vastardis was featured in the Detroit Free Press (DFP) on October 19 as a “Mack truck” for the University of Michigan (U-M) football team.
“As a fifth-year senior, Vastardis wasn't sure whether he would return to Michigan football for his final season of eligibility,” DFP reported, adding that “the Wolverines don't usually guarantee a spot on the roster for redshirt seniors and often they meet with each player to discuss the future.”
Vastardis “entered his meeting with one thing on his mind” DFP reported.
"I was going to stay around as long as I could," he told DFP, "because this could have been my last chance, and I felt that I prepared myself as best I could and have grown really close with the coaches and my teammates."
According to DFP, “Michigan wanted Vastardis to return for another season, and the decisions from both sides have paid off.”
On October 19, “U-M coach Jim Harbaugh named Vastardis, a former walk-on, the team's starting center in place of Cesar Ruiz, who was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in April,” DFP reported, adding that “the opportunity has been a long time coming.”
Vastardis, while in high school, “committed to play at Old Dominion, but later accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Michigan,” DFP reported, noting that “based on the nature of college football, in which scholarship players are prioritized, the odds were stacked against him.”
“In Vastardis' class alone, the Wolverines signed two highly touted interior offensive linemen in Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu, both of whom were drafted in April and started for most of their careers,” DFP reported, adding that Vastardis “bided his time,” “tried to learn as much as possible,” and “earned the respect of teammates, such as defensive tackle Carlo Kemp, who noticed his work ethic.”
"The biggest thing about Andrew is he is one of the hardest workers on and off the field — especially on the field," Kemp told DFP, "Whatever happens during a play, he’s going to make sure that he finishes to the best of his ability, through the whistle, to the whistle and that’s not just an understatement because it's every play, consistently, no matter what. We like to think of Andrew as a Mack Truck. He just drives his Mack Truck to work every day and pours his concrete."
Vastardis “carved out a role on offense and special teams,” and “in 2018, he appeared in six games,” DFP reported, adding that he then “earned a scholarship entering the 2019 season and played in five games” though not a starter, “the experience was rewarding.”
Vastardis told DFP, "I've learned from great players, I've had the pleasure of being in the footsteps of some really good players and some really good mentors and coaches and just really soaking it all in and trying to improve myself to get to this point and gonna continue to grow as the season progresses."
Michigan is now trying “to replace four draft picks along the offensive line” DFP reported, noting that “Vastardis is comfortable with the offense's playbook and protection schemes.”
“Before the snap, he'll start the line's protection calls and lead the other offensive linemen,” DFP reported, pointing out that “those communication skills were praised this offseason as Vastardis competed for the starting center job and they're a big reason why he won that battle.”
Coach Harbaugh told DFP, that he has “been the leader on the offensive line for several, several months since the season ended, since last year ended. Just been terrific. 'Go Blue' guy all the way. Intense trainer, loves to lift, loves to run, loves to practice. Very smart. … Done a great job since he’s been here. His opportunity has come and he has grabbed onto it. Been extremely, extremely thrilled with him.”
Kemp said of his classmate, “Seeing Vastardis where he’s at now, you just think about his whole process of coming in, walking on, now filling a role and being a starter. It’s a huge accomplishment to how he’s able to handle any adversity in his life, and being able to work his way from his starting position to where he’s at now at the end is incredible,” DFP reported.
“When I asked coach for the opportunity to come back and I was granted it, I was excited and blessed to have the opportunity, because you never know when football's gonna end," Vastardis told DFP, “And I fully believe I'm taking advantage of every second I still have with it.”