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Mark Andrews poised to make having diabetes into a positive as he inches toward NFL

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The Oklahoma tight end who says Joe Mixon was one of the best two teammates he’s ever had is ready to work his way into the NFL.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Mark Andrews dominated at Oklahoma where he accumulated 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners. He’s said to be a receiver in a tight end’s body as he’s not a great blocker but is a solid route runner and capable target in the passing game.

He also has an interesting back story, including a near-death experience while at Oklahoma. Andrews has Type-1 diabetes, something he monitors well, but it can always be a risk. He spoke about that and much more while in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine.

The topic of his blocking quickly came up as he was talking to the media and while Andrews admitted he doesn’t have a ton of blocking experience, he’s willing to work toward changing that.

“I have a lot a lot more experience in the receiving side, but with that being said, I am someone that plays with a lot of technique with a good base,” Andrew said. “I learned that as a red-shirt my freshman year, moving to that tight end position. Playing in the spread offense I didn’t get the opportunity to block a whole ton. It’s something that I am a very willing blocker. I am excited about it. I like to learn. I love learning. I love learning football. I know I am only going to progress in that area and is something I am looking forward to.”

Another thing Andrews wanted to clear up at the Combine was that he doesn’t believe having Type 1 diabetes will be a hinderance to him in the NFL. He actually thinks it’s helped him to mature and learn, which can only be a good thing as he gets ready to enter the pros.

“I think when you first get it, you are like, ‘Why me? Why is this something God gave me,’” Andrew said. “But, that isn’t the right way to think of it and I think maturing early, you have to do what you have to do. This is what God has given me, for whatever reason. There’s always a reason for something and there’s something greater to it. I have learned a lot. At an early age, it was tough. ‘Why me? Why me?’ And I have grown. I have realized there’s a bigger picture and something bigger than that.”

Andrews was diagnosed when he was nine-years-old, so at this point and with the help of his father who is a doctor, he has learned how to treat his body so that the disease doesn’t have to be a hinderance, but actually something that helps him thrive.

“I have turned having diabetes into a positive,” he said. “I have been able to do so many things with it. I have been able to help kids. On the flip side of it, I treat my body like a temple. I eat the right things and most kids my age don’t do that. I had to mature at a really, really young age. It’s something that I think has helped me along the way to help me with where I am right now. Without it, I don’t know if I would have this passion and edge that I have for everything in life. Nothing is given to you. You have to earn it, and same thing with my diabetes.”

Andrews certainly won’t be the first NFL player with Type 1 diabetes; in fact, Jay Cutler was an idol to him as he played through the same situation.

“Growing up I have always looked for guys in the NFL that have played with it. He was the guy who stood out to me,” Andrews said of Cutler. “I didn’t read too much into what he did, but it was one of those guys who I could idol. He did it, so I can do it. It’s awesome to be able to have that to look up to. That is what my passion is. Be a guy who kids look up to. If he’s doing it, I can do it and live your dream.”

Andrews now counts his carbs, eats complex carbs like pasta the day before games and ensures he’s always well hydrated.

“If I don’t, there are consequences; I will pay,” he says. “I will cramp up and lose stuff really easily, so it is something that is on my mind 24/7 and something that has helped my body and the way I play the game.”

But, with that said, Andrews is fully confident that having diabetes should not be a concern for NFL teams considering drafting him. And if the Bengals lose Tyler Eifert in free agency, the team should certainly be looking to Andrews as a replacement.

“There’s not a chance,” he said of it being an issue. “This is something that I have had since I was nine. I am very good at it. I am very diligent. I have never missed a game or a practice from this disease. It is something that I thrive with and I think they look at it as something of a positive. It is a chip on my shoulder. It is something that drives me. It is my passion. I think everybody needs that in life.”