Andrew Stueber keeping game-like mentality as he ventures to the NFL

Andrew Stueber is on his way to the 2022 NFL Draft. A constant game-like mentality has led him to this point, and it's not going away.

Michigan offensive lineman Andrew Stueber has one primary goal — a goal that underpins all of his efforts. It’s to make an impression on everyone he meets. It’s ambitious. Daunting, even. But for Stueber, it’s simply an extension of a constant game-like mindset — one that he adopted at Michigan and one that every ultimate competitor needs to be selected in the NFL Draft. Stueber is on his way, but his mindset isn’t changing.

Andrew Stueber’s early beginnings in Connecticut

Stueber is coming off a standout performance at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. There, he was recognized as one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was a multi-year starter at the University of Michigan and helped his offensive line win the 2021 Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line in college football.

Stueber already has a track record of success on the offensive line. So it makes it even more surprising that he didn’t start playing football until eighth grade. Connecticut isn’t the nexus of American football. Lacrosse is a more popular sport in the northeast. There’s also basketball, baseball, and soccer — all of which Stueber played before football.

As surprising as it sounds, Stueber was actually too big for the sport. If he wanted to play football, he would’ve had to jump a grade and leave his classmates. That wasn’t something Stueber wanted to do. But after hearing parents and students alike encourage him to try football, he gave it a shot when the right time came.

“Eighth grade rolls around, and they kind of peel back the weight limit,” Stueber explained. “So I give it a try. I played a lot of D-line. And it was really just like a team experience. It’s totally different than any other sport you play. And I just fell in love with it. The bond with your teammates, the preparation you put in, the payoff you get. Ultimately, it’s unlike any other sport out there.”

A dramatic ascent in high school

In high school, Stueber moved to the offensive line and quickly distinguished himself as a dominant prospect in the Connecticut high school football circuit. He eventually earned a four-star recruit designation in the 2017 class. And steadily, as the process played out, more and more schools took an interest in Stueber’s talents.

It was a whirlwind for Stueber, traveling to camps and taking visits in unfamiliar places. But Stueber was thankful for that time. It taught him a lot.

“Coming out of high school is tough, you know? But it was good because I had to earn my offers. I went to [Boston College] first. I did really well in the camp, got my first offer, and it was big. Once you get one, it kind of works its way down. So then I went to Penn State camps, and I went to a lot of Ivy League camps to get the word out there.”

Being discovered by the Michigan Wolverines

Stueber kept marketing his skills until he caught the eye of the Michigan Wolverines. That led to an opportunity at Michigan’s northeast satellite camp. And that, Stueber says, paved the way for his offer in Ann Arbor.

“I went to the Michigan satellite camp, which was in my area. That was when I first started getting on the radar for them. I did well, and coach Don Brown was there. So he was like, ‘Oh, you got to get out to Michigan. We like you.’ So then we went out to the big man camp. I think it was like June 30th or something. And I competed there, too. I earned my offer.

“I gave everything I have, did all the drills, all the agility work, and ultimately at the end, they named the top people in the camp. And I was one of them. Then a coach pulled me to the middle of the stadium, in the middle of the block M, and they just gave me my offer right there on the spot.”

Michigan had been on Stueber’s radar as a potential option since the satellite camp. Stueber was drawn to Michigan, not just for the academic and athletic prestige but also for the storied rivalries in store. Thus, earning an offer from Michigan was a rewarding culmination for all the hard work in the months prior. It taught Stueber a simple lesson.

“Hard work does pay off, and getting your name out there, working hard for what you want.”

A redemptive career arc at Michigan

Arriving at Michigan, it took time for Stueber to see the field. During his true freshman season in 2017, he only saw action in one game on special teams. It was an adjustment for Stueber — one he says every freshman has to experience.

“I think every freshman goes through the kind of the humbling process. There’s always a point where they kind of break you down, and then they start building you up. And you know, it always makes you stronger, and it makes you better. But I knew that was coming for me. It was going to be a grind process. Just keep pushing through, keep grinding.

“So I just approached with that mentality in the first year, just trying to learn as much as I can and get up to speed in the weight room. I saw great returns from the work I put in freshman year. So I just kind of cut and copied that as I kept going.”

The returns kept coming in 2018. Stueber saw more action on offense and started the first two games of his career — both at right tackle against Ohio State and Florida. It was quite the gauntlet for a young player, but it helped Stueber prepare for what was supposed to be a breakout 2019 season. Unfortunately, life had different plans.

Dealing with and recovering from injury

Stueber was due to take on an increased role in 2019 after getting his first starting action late in 2018. But during the 2019 training camp, Stueber suffered a season-ending injury, closing the door on his junior campaign before it began. It was a difficult time for Stueber, but he kept his game-like mindset as much as he could. That strategy, after all, has gotten him through everything else.

“I kind of took a step back physically from the game, obviously. But I stayed in the game. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh always says if you don’t want to get left out, help out. So that’s exactly what I did. I got involved. I really took it upon myself to help the freshman class. A couple guys got really nervous when they got called on, so I’d sit them down, walk them through it.”

Stueber cites his training staff, teammates, friends, and family as supporting factors for his recovery. But ultimately, staying locked in was what helped Stueber pick up his stride in 2020.

“A lot of people, when they go through an injury like that, check out of the game mentally,” Stueber reasoned. “And so when they come back into the game, it’s hard for them to just focus on so many things and put it all together physically when you’re just coming off the rehab process. But I tried to stay in the game mentally as much as possible, and I think that was a big reason why I was able to slide right back in. It’s kind of just like riding a bike.”

Stueber’s redemption in 2020 and 2021

Stueber remained focused and diligent during his season away. He kept the pedals turning and slowly eased himself back into the physical workload. When he came back to the field, the results spoke for themselves. Stueber started all six games in 2020, getting time at both right guard and right tackle. He returned in 2021 and was the team’s full-time starter at RT, all the way through the Wolverines’ College Football Playoff run. Additionally, Stueber’s play earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.

Stueber enjoyed the recognition. Seeing linemen like Jon Runyan and Ben Bredeson come before him and earn similar success was a validating experience for Stueber. But Stueber’s favorite accomplishment from 2021 was no individual trophy. It was earning the Joe Moore Award alongside his OL teammates.

“The biggest thing I missed through the whole recovery process was not being able to go out with my teammates every day and just grind. As an O-lineman, I love the grind. I love embracing the practice and just being able to work with the guys. I’m almost more proud of [the Joe Moore Award] because it’s a group award. You’re only as strong as the weakest link. I’m just so proud of the whole unit and that I could come back and be a leader in that. I’d say that award is the most meaningful for me because of that.”

It wasn’t easy, especially after losing pieces in 2020. But with the help of OL coach Sherrone Moore, Michigan got to a point where communication was second nature. After that point, Stueber says, it was all too easy to set the tone.

Beating Ohio State the highlight of Stueber’s career

There are many fond memories for Stueber as he reflects on his career at Michigan. But for Stueber, beating Ohio State in 2021 is hands down the highlight of his career. It’s something that Stueber looked forward to for a long time, even before arriving at Michigan.

“Michigan has such an iconic rivalry. I grew up watching it, and in my hometown, we play our Turkey Bowl every Thanksgiving Day against the same high school every time. My high school color is blue, and theirs is red. And so it’s kind of a similar rivalry that we did to Michigan and Ohio State.”

At Michigan, Stueber says, you’re conditioned to circle the Ohio State game on your calendar. The game quickly took on added meaning for Stueber, who got his first start against the Buckeyes. To not only win the game in 2021 but also use it as a springboard to the College Football Playoffs — nothing quite topped that feeling.

“You know, we have the museum, we have everything there. And it’s kind of clear when you walk in the door that, there’s one game there, [and that’s Ohio State]. And so bringing it home finally this past year was definitely the highlight of my career. We know how it tastes, and we want more.”

Stueber knows the weight versatility holds

Starting games at both guard and tackle, Stueber picked up valuable experience with the Wolverines. But more importantly, he learned the differences between the positions in real-time.

“The first thing about tackle is you’re out there on the lonely edge,” Stueber says. “If you’re in pass pro, and someone beats you on the outside, you’re alone. That is you. And so you have to realize that and keep that mentality. There’s a lot of pressure on you at tackle. It’s a tough job. And that’s why technique is worked so much at Michigan, in the league, and everywhere else.”

But guards don’t have it much easier. Awareness is key, and for Stueber, that awareness also comes with experience.

“At guard, you have to be a lot more aware of your surroundings than at tackle. At tackle, if you have a guy out there, that is my guy, like, I have him. But at guard, you could be blocking someone, and someone could be coming around right behind. You’d have to come off. The center has to come with you.

“You have to be so much more aware of what is going on inside the box in terms of pass pro. You may have to be locked in somewhere to look over top to a linebacker coming that way. So just having that awareness is huge. It’s something that I’ve tried to develop a lot — being able to understand where people are defensively and being able to read defenses more pre-snap.”

Michigan offensive linemen get to go up against the best

We all know the saying, “Iron sharpens iron.” It’s become a cliché, but it rings true each year — especially at some of the nation’s premier college football programs. Playing against Michigan’s complex scheming and high-level defensive talent each practice, Stueber says the Wolverines prepared him well for success at the next level.

An underrated catalyst in Stueber’s growth, in fact, was former Michigan and newly anointed Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Midway through spring camp, Macdonald started throwing fake blitzes and disguises at the offense.

Those disguises can put linemen in a tough spot. Stueber says there are tells to look for when gauging whether players are blitzing or not. But the key is to be decisive with your call, no matter what the call is.

“There are some times where you just make a call and live with it. The running back can make you right, the quarterback can have his hot route. The worst thing you can do is start flipping points left and right and have a miscommunication. So when in doubt, you make your point, be definitive with it, and you block it as best you can.”

Going up against Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo

Even without the disguised blitzes and misdirections, Stueber constantly had his hands full with the defensive line talent that Michigan features year in and year out. This past season, it was the famed first-round duo of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo that terrorized opposing offenses. But Stueber’s been going up against that kind of talent in practices since 2018. And it’s been a key factor in molding him into the player he is today.

“Throughout my whole career, Michigan, I’ve gone through some great defensive ends. I’ve gone against Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. Mike Danna, Kwity Paye, Josh Uche. And then, just this past year, Hutchinson and Ojabo. Aidan worked moves on me that I don’t see in games — really high-level moves. I had to be really careful with my hands, my feet, and know exactly where to punch. When we would do third-down drills, a lot of times, you’d be set 1-on-1 with either Aidan or Ojabo on the edge.”

Hutchinson and Ojabo are both daunting, dominating spectacles in their own right. For Stueber, the key to combatting them was adopting a constant high-stakes mindset — to help him always be at his best.

“Putting yourself in a game-like mentality in those reps really helps you. Put yourself in a game where ‘He cannot beat me, or this is a sack.’ Visualizing what it’s going to be like in the game is something that I try to do a lot. It just made the games that much easier because I’ve done this in practice multiple times against one of the best edge rushers in the country. So it just gave me confidence, helped me every day in practice, and I think I’m a better player because of it.”

A test of mettle at the Reese’s Senior Bowl

Hutchinson and Ojabo would provide a valuable precursor for Stueber’s test at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Stueber secured an invite toward the end of the season. It was a big step for him, who’d watched many of his teammates go through that same process.

Stueber would ultimately join the National Team. There he battled a host of top defensive linemen from both tackle and interior spots — including Haskell Garrett, Travis Jones, Perrion Winfrey, Arnold Ebiketie, Boye Mafe, Myjai Sanders, and others.

It’s an intimidating lineup on paper, but Stueber didn’t blink and made the most of his opportunity. Simply getting his name out there — like he did during the recruiting process — was the most important thing for Stueber.

“I got a lot of exposure,” he said. “I got a lot of interviews with coaches. Got to understand more about this process, especially with the Combine coming up. It was good prep for that, and it was really good to go against other guys from other conferences, get new coaching and calls, too. Then also playing on the interior. Played guard and played a little bit of center in the 1-on-1s. My snaps are still getting there. But it was good to get the exposure on the interior and show my skill. I think I checked the box there. I think I did well and impressed some people, so that was my goal.”

Preparation for the NFL Draft and the next chapter

Looking back on his Michigan career, Stueber has a lot to be thankful for. Now, it’s on to the next step. Training with Duke Manyweather at the Sports Academy ahead of the NFL Combine. Lifting weights, speed and recovery drills, nutrition programs, introductions to terminology. And, of course, tape.

Staying mentally engaged remains near the top of the list for Stueber. He names Eric Fisher and Michigan alum Taylor Lewan as two tackles he watches frequently and aims to emulate. But Stueber isn’t averse to playing a different position in the NFL. More than anything, Stueber wants to be flexible for his coaches.

“I just want to be able to be put wherever the coach wants me. In order to help the team the best, I’ll play tackle, I’ll play guard. You need a center, give me some reps, I’ll do it. I’ll command the offensive line. I’m not picky. Obviously, I think right now I’m more comfortable at tackle. I had more game reps at it. But yeah, give me a fall camp at guard. I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Using a vital opportunity to learn

Stueber’s main goal is to make an impression, whether it be on the field or with his interactions off it. The 6’6″, 327-pound mauler did that in Big Ten play this past year. He did that at the Senior Bowl, with his physical edge and consistency. And he did that in his interview with his upbeat attitude and attentiveness.

But Stueber also understands that work goes into making an impression. It doesn’t just happen overnight. Hard work is what truly generates results. After going through that process twice now, Stueber knows the drill. He knows the importance of listening and learning early on.

“Going to the NFL, the first thing I want to do is learn as much as possible. Learn from the veterans, from everybody — just be able to absorb all this knowledge. It is such a transition from the college lifestyle to that lifestyle, and there’s a lot you can learn along the way. So I’m going to listen twice as much as I speak and absorb as much as I can. Work as hard as I can. If I get a shot, whenever that is, I make the most of it.”

Notice the tense in Stueber’s last statement: “I make the most of it.” It’s not a hypothetical for Stueber, but instead a constant. A certainty. That game-like mentality never truly wavers for him. A second off today might mean a sack tomorrow. That laser focus keeps Stueber going, and it’s his guiding light on the path to the NFL Draft.

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