MOORE HAVEN — Another chapter in the rapid ascension of Moore Haven High School football player Andrew Fish was written Feb. 9.
In front of close to 100 people, including teammates, classmates, coaches, administrators and family members who filled bleachers in front of him in the school’s gymnasium, Fish signed with St. Thomas University on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
Fish, a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, grew up on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Brighton Reservation and attended Pemeyetv Emahakv Charter School on the reservation. He has only been playing football for two years, yet the 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive lineman quickly turned heads as he helped the Terriers compile a 20-3 record in his career. Interest and offers came from colleges such as Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Georgia Southern, but Fish was attracted to the newness of the St. Thomas football program in Miami Gardens, about 12 miles south of the Hollywood Reservation.
“It’s a new program. Everything is going to be new. It’s going to be good. I can’t wait,” said Fish, who wore a red, long sleeve STU jersey at the signing and put on a hat from the school right after he signed.
St. Thomas, which made the announcement to add football last August, will debut this fall and play in the NAIA’s Sun Conference.
“It will be an opportunity for him to kind of make history, to lay that ground work with that program. That’s a good opportunity,” said Brent Burnside, who was promoted to head coach at Moore Haven in January after serving as defensive coordinator.
Fish is the son of Michelle Grindler and the late Mike Fish. After the signing, Fish received big hugs from his mother, grandmother Emma Fish and several other family members and relatives, including his cousin and teammate Rob Harris, also from the Seminole Nation. Fish and Harris formed a formidable tandem on the offensive line, often towering above their opponents. Harris, a junior who is slightly taller and heavier than Fish, is also receiving interest from colleges, including Florida International University and the University of South Florida.
“He’ll get some looks from some of those major colleges,” said Burnside, who replaced Max Manin at the helm after Manin recently accepted an assistant coaching position at St. Augustine High School.
While a signing day ceremony for Harris could come next year, Fish was the lone Terrier in the spotlight for this year’s ceremony. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Chris Cook described Fish as a “very good kid” with “great character.” Cook said there’s more to Fish than just his size.
“To be such a big guy, he’s so agile. He may have been the best athlete on the team, even with that size,” Cook said. “He’s a very athletic young man. He picked up the game mentally and physically in just a snap, almost instantly. He was able to do the assignments we taught him and he was able to make the plays extremely quickly.”
Moore Haven senior captain Conner Thomas also pointed to other aspects of Fish’s game that impressed him.
“I know a lot of people like his size, but he loves the game. His drive and his willpower to want to play is crazy,” Thomas said.
If it wasn’t for Thomas, a Seminole Tribe of Florida member from Brighton, Fish likely would never have shifted his athletic interest from basketball to football. Thomas, who was the leader on the OL at right guard, played a pivotal role to get Fish onto a football field.
“I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t encourage me to come out here,” Fish said.
Fish’s athletic career at Moore Haven isn’t over yet. He and Harris excelled in shot put on the track and field team last spring as both reached the state tournament. Fish finished third in district, fourth in regional and 15th in Class 1A. After track season and graduation, his attention will shift to St. Thomas and college football. He plans to start school in August.