Better than ever, SAU's Briones enjoying senior season

Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011, 9:36 pm
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By Tom Johnston,
Andrew Briones is doing it all on the defensive side of the football for the St. Ambrose Fighting Bees this fall.

Just look at the stats.

He leads the team in tackles (55), assisted tackles (23), interceptions (4) and fumble recoveries (2). He is second on the team in solos tackles (32), tackles for loss (6.5), sacks (2) and forced fumbles (1).

"After every game, you look at the stat sheet and he's forcing fumbles, intercepting passes, sacking the quarterback; he just has a great nose and an instinct for the football,'' said SAU coach Mike Magistrelli, whose nationally 13th-ranked club is 6-1 heading into today's home contest with Waldorf at Brady Street Stadium.

He has a well-aged nose that is serving him well as he moved to a more comfortable position this season in defensive coordinator Jeff Girsch's scheme. He is now an inside linebacker after being on the edge last fall.

The 23-year-old, fifth-year senior is taking advantage of his age and wisdom, turning it into a senior season he hopes is one to remember. The former Alleman prep who spent three years at Western Illinois University, admits there are advantages to being an older player on the field.

"When I was younger, in my first experiences of college football, I was a very, very timid person,'' admitted Briones. "I wasn't going out there and doing my job all the time because of that. Now that I'm a more mature player, and knowing my assignments better and having a better understanding of the defense, I know what I'm supposed to do.''

Briones is one of the older players on the team, but his body is holding up better this year than last. He lost the first five games of his junior season to a lingering hamstring injury and used that experience to help him stay healthier and on the field this fall.

"I have treated my body better and been smarter about it,'' he admitted.

That doesn't mean that he has tempered his game any.

"Coach Girsch puts him in positions to let him freelance and run,'' said Magistrelli, noting he has to reign in his standout in practice occasionally. "That really fits his strengths.''

While his career blossomed after coming back home, Briones said he wouldn't change a thing about his time in Macomb where he saw Special Teams action and just a few downs on defense.

"I wouldn't have it any other way,'' he said. "The little things I learned down there have helped me improve my game here. The minute details that I brought back from Western to here – different types of techniques and other little things – have helped me improve my game. ... It's helped me mature as a person and helped me mature as a player.''

Briones is hoping all that grooming pays off and leaves him with a very memorable collegiate finale that he hopes culminates with a Mid-States Football Association Midwest League title and deep run into the playoffs.

Even if it is his final season in pads, the exercise science major hopes it is not his last around football. In fact, he recently changed his major so that he could find a career – strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist – that keeps him around the game if becoming a coach doesn't pan out for some reason.

"The more I've played football, the harder it is going to be to get away from football when I'm done playing,'' he said.

He hopes that a long NAIA playoff run extends his collegiate career. He got fired up about the possibility of pro options – on any level – surfacing so he could keep hitting the field and foes.

"It would be a dream to be able to continue playing,'' he said. "I'm hoping for any opportunity to keep playing. I just love this game so much and I'm not ready to give it up.''



Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

(More History)