BY FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ
Nearly two years ago, the Los Cabos Marlins professional American football team was introduced into the FAM (Football Americano en Mexico) League, which already consisted of 6 teams that included the Bulldogs of Naucalpan, the Caudillos AKA Rebel Leaders from Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, the Rarámuris of Ciudad Juárez, Reds de Lindavista (Mexico City), Tequileros (Guadalajara) and Sharks (Cancún).
In January 2020, the Marlins held tryouts at their Bicentennial Stadium in the Cangrejos neighborhood Don Koll sports complex. FAM is the first Professional American Football League in the country that began its first season in 2019. The league featured a former NFL player, Tony De’Angelo Simmons, coaching the Marlins. The Querétaro Pioneers won the league’s first championship in 2020. The FAM league has also been exploring further expansion with potential teams considered from the cities of Puebla, León, Monterrey or Mazatlán.
For now, the league’s focus and highlight have been the Los Cabos Marlins addition of former NFL Tennessee Titans running back, Antonio Andrews. Before Andrews, the biggest signing by FAM had been the big-time running back from college football’s most successful program, Trent Richardson, formally from the Alabama University Crimson Tide. He has played in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, who made him the #3 overall draft pick and was later traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Richardson also played for the Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, and then with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The 29-year-old, 5′ 10,” 225 lb, Andrews was born and raised in Enterprise, Alabama. He played his college football at Western Kentucky and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2016. Andrews excelled at Fort Campbell High School in Kentucky, where he led the team to an undefeated 29-0 as the starting quarterback during his junior and senior years and helped lead the team to two Class 2A state championships.
As a freshman at Western Kentucky in 2010, Antonio ran for 174 yards and 429 all-purpose yards. The following sophomore season, Andrews played in eight games and accumulated 590 all-purpose yards that featured a career-best 75-yard kickoff return against Navy. As a junior in 2012, Andrews led the Sun Belt Conference in rushing yards (1,728), punt return yards (234), and kickoff return yards (767), and also scored 15 touchdowns.
He also led every collegiate program in all-purpose yards per game, and his 3,161 all-purpose yards for the season was the second-highest total in NCAA football history, behind the 1988 Detroit Lions Hall of Fame legend, Barry Sanders, who was a Heisman Trophy-winning star at Oklahoma State. The Heisman is awarded every year to college football’s most outstanding player.
Andrews made the 2012 All-Sun Belt Conference Offense First Team, and he had been named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times that season. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award. Antonio then finished his final senior year campaign with 1,730 rushing yards on 267 carries. For his college career, Andrews had 3,674 rushing yards.
After going undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans agreed to sign Andrews to a free agent contract and he made his NFL debut on November 23, 2014, against the Philadelphia Eagles. The following year, Andrews finished the 2015 season with 520 rushing yards on 143 attempts and 3 touchdowns. By 2016, Andrews was the third running back on the Titans’ depth chart after they acquired DeMarco Murray from the Dallas Cowboys and drafted the current NFL star and 2020 rushing leader Derrick Henry.
Now the big, strong and powerful running back will be the featured star of the Los Cabos Marlins. The Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional (LFA) has been the established power in Mexican pro football since it began in 2016. Liga Futbol Americano de Mexico (FAM) arrived as a league competitor in 2019. And while the LFA has a sixth player from outside the Country of Mexico import limit and salary cap restrictions, FAM has done away with their financial limitation and allows a maximum of 15 imported players from the USA and/or Canada.
The Chihuahua Rebel Leaders (Caudillos) team president, Jorge Ginther, recently noted “There’s over 30 million fans of American football here in Mexico.”
With both leagues set to kick off their 2021 seasons in June, the buzz around the Mexican pro football game has never been louder as dedicated fans in both leagues believe fiercely in their respective teams and talented players.
Andrews has already received a hero’s welcome in Cabo San Lucas, and the very friendly and engaging young man is definitely a promising chess piece in this growing American football Marlins franchise. He is a promising talent, with a genuine heart and love for community who signs autographs and encourages young fans in Cabo during their pre-season media activities at Don Koll Stadium.