Saints’ Andella plans to continue football career at New Haven

Saints’ Andella plans to continue football career at New Haven

St. Raphael Academy senior and Pawtucket native Andrew Andella, left, and SRA head coach Mike Sassi are all smiles after Andella signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his football career at the University of New Haven during a signing ceremony at the Saints’ Alumni Hall. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
All-State defensive back inks NLI to D-II school

PAWTUCKET – Over the years, the St. Raphael Academy football team has seen several of its top players continue their gridiron careers at the Division I and II collegiate levels after graduating from high school, and last Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Andella joined that exclusive group.

The Pawtucket resident, who received First-Team All-State and All-Division honors as a defensive back this past season, signed a National Letter of Intent to play D-II football at the University of New Haven during a signing ceremony at the school’s Alumni Hall.

Andella’s parents, Kevin and Shaney, and SRA head coach Mike Sassi sat next to him as he filled out his paperwork. Witnessing the event were Andella’s friends and classmates, who rooted on Andella and called for a speech.

While dabbling in other sports, such as baseball and hockey – he is a defenseman on the Providence Country Day/SRA/Wheeler School co-op squad – Andella’s love for football grew. And as he saw his improvement in the sport grow over the years, he wanted to continue playing at the collegiate level.

New Haven certainly appealed to Andella, whose older brother, Tyler, attends the Connecticut school. Andella regularly visited his brother on the campus before he began looking at any other colleges, and the blue turf on the Chargers’ home field was “pretty attractive” to him.

“Over the summer, I went to a few different combines, making sure New Haven would be there,” Andella said. “And I ended up going to a combine back at New Haven. I got very close with the defensive coordinator, (Matt Scott), who was also the (defensive backs) coach, so when I was at the combines, I worked at the DB drills and it would be him running them. We just connected very well.”

Last season, Andella, who was one of the Saints’ captains, played on both sides of the ball, but admitted that “his love and passion” was on defense. He ended the year with 60 tackles and three interceptions.

On special teams, Andella had 17 kick returns for a total of 363 yards and seven punt returns for 78 yards, and on offense he ran 21 times for 92 yards and caught a team-high 25 passes for 297. Andella also ended the season with four touchdowns.

“He was a great captain for us,” said Sassi, who noted that Andella was the team’s defensive MVP. “He helped bring a lot of the old traditions back that we were kind of lacking the last couple of years. He was a great leader by example.”

“He went to the Will Blackmon camp last summer and Blackmon singled him out as one of the top defensive backs in the camp,” Sassi continued. “From week to week, we always put him on the best player, whoever we were playing, and he did a great job of shutting people down. He took a lot of pride in that. And he’s also a pretty good punt and kick returner. Once the game started, he pretty much didn’t leave the field until the game was over.”

While Andella is excited to start his journey at New Haven, he still has the rest of his senior year to complete. He already decided to major in criminal justice and investigative services. And he has a hockey season to complete, now that he has been cleared to play.

“He played the whole season with a broken bone in his wrist,” Sassi said. “And he didn’t tell us until the end of the year. He told me after the last regular season game.”

Andella said the injury to his wrist happened last summer during a scrimmage. At first, he thought it might have been sprained, “so I just kept playing through it,” he said, “but it got worse, like a little past halfway through the season.”

As everyone gathered in Alumni Hall, Sassi recalled the first time he put Andella in a varsity game.

“It was pretty funny,” Sassi said. “It was his freshman year and we were playing Bishop Hendricken, and the first person he ever had to try and tackle was Kwity Paye, who is playing at Michigan now. But from there, he progressed pretty well.”