Feb. 28, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It took quite a bit of losing, but now AJ Addison is ready to win.
Addison is one of several Marshall 2014 signees who took early enrollment for this semester, getting a head start on college football.
At left tackle, where 2013 starting guard Sebastian “Swede” Johansson is moving this coming season, Addison is being counted on as an early contributor. He can hardly wait for spring practice to begin March 25 … and it has nothing to do with the winter cold.
“Getting here already this semester is a major factor for me, yes, sir,” said Addison, who came to Marshall after a prep school season semester at Fork Union Military Academy in his native Virginia. “I’m in the weight room right now, getting stronger, the mat drills Tuesday and Thursdays, working on my steps.
“I’m getting that down pat, because they want me to play left tackle, and I played right tackle at Fork Union. So, it’s big to get here ahead of other freshmen coming in down the road. I think it’s a big plus for me, a key thing.”
Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said the 6-foot-6 Addison is a solid offensive line prospect for many reasons. Addison – the AJ is short for Andre Ginial Addison Jr. – said the biggest reason is that he’s … well … not as big.
As a senior at Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian School, Addison’s only college football offer came from Division II Fairmont State.
“I had a weight factor,” said Addison, sitting in the Shewey Building football offices. “My senior year in high school, I was 345 pounds. Then, when I went to Fork Union, I weighed in there at 308. I think the weight thing was a big factor. There was academics, too.
“Coach Bill Lazor (former Virginia offensive coordinator now with the Miami Dolphins) said he loved me, but the weight thing was going to be a big factor. My high school head coach, Tim Coleman, told me I had to lose weight if I wanted to play Division I football.
“So I started eating right, working out more, went into the weight room more, toned up a bit. It gave me a chance to go to Fork Union, work on my craft, tune up some things, study, focus, plus I played defense at FUMA, too, and being on the field helped me lose (weight). My SAT score went up 250 points, too.”
Addison said the discipline in the military-based prep school was something else he needed. And he made the school’s honor roll for the 2013 fall semester.
“Fork Union really helped me out a lot,” he said. “At FUMA, there are no distractions, a lot of marching, a lot of saluting. But it paid off big, got my body right. It was school and football, no distractions, and mentally it helped me out tremendously. I’m mentally prepared to do this now.”
Addison, from Ruther Glen, Va., spent his first two high school years at Caroline, a Group AA program. He moved to Fredericksburg Christian as a junior, when the school was in only its third season of football. In his senior season, he was a Virginia private schools all-state first team linemen and he helped FCS to the state private school championship game. He also played basketball for the Eagles.
At Fork Union, Addison had FBS offers from Marshall and Georgia State, as well as about a half-dozen FCS offers. Mirabal said the player’s hunger as a “no list guy” – a reference to recruiting website rankings – helps fuel Addison.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of upside,” Mirabal said. “What we saw on film told us that, but now obviously his upside’s even higher in my opinion because of his reactions as a human being – how he handles himself, carries himself.
“Sometimes you get kids from everywhere, high schools, prep schools, junior colleges and they’re on (recruiting website) lists. He hasn’t been on one list. And so he’s not a ‘list guy,’ and if you’re not a list guy, you’ve got tremendous desire that goes a long way when you’re playing a position like the offensive line.
“On film, before we signed him, I liked his length, liked the fact he was twitchy, could move his feet – tangible things. Now that he’s here, I love the fact that he’s a very good listener but most importantly, has a great desire to get better, to improve. You speak to Mrs. (Tara) Helton, our academic (advisor), speak to Coach (Scott) Sinclair in weight room, to Coach Mark Gale (football operations chief), and everybody has same take on AJ – a) he’s very respectful, with a tremendous manner about him, and b) he has a great desire to get better.” Addison’s Fork Union experience also was crucial for Addison, he said, because Fredericksburg Christian ran the wing-T offense, so his pass-blocking skills weren’t tested. In Coach John Shuman’s FUMA program, Addison got a well-rounded, disciplined boost and drew the attention of J.C. Price, the Marshall defensive tackles coach who recruits FUMA for the Herd.
“Coaches came to Fredericksburg Christian left and right,” said Addison, who also drew interest from Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. “It really wasn’t (a lack of) exposure. The only things that really killed me were my weight and SAT scores.
“I really think I have a good upside (he won’t turn age 19 until late May). I weigh 285 now … want to play at 300-305, get stronger, that’s my goal. I think that’s my best weight, and I need to put on more muscle. Hopefully by the season, I’ll be there.”
Mirabal said that when spring practice begins, he foresees Addison in a group with redshirt sophomore Tom Collins and redshirt freshman Chris Huhn at left tackle, backing up Johansson.
“We’ll start AJ out there; in our mind, left tackle is best for him,” Mirabal said. “Like we do with all new guys, we don’t want him be a jack-of-all-trades. We want him at one spot, and become good at one spot.”
Mirabal already has grasped one important ingredient in the offensive line unit. He is a good listener.
“One thing I told him when he got here, and one thing I tell all the young guys,” Mirabal said, “is to keep your mouth closed and listen, not only to the adults, to (veteran center) Chris Jasperse, to (right tackle) Clint Van Horn, to Sebastian Johansson, because if they tell you something and you listen, then they’re going to make sure to help you to get better.
“The first time they hear a young guy, where when they’re talking to you and you interrupt and open your mouth, ‘but … but … but,’ they’re just going to shut it down and say, ‘The heck with you.’ AJ does a tremendous job with that. We’re really, really happy with him.”
Addison said that his first semester at Marshall will be mostly about learning the ropes.
“Coach Mirabal is a tremendous coach,” Addison said. “In the time I’ve been here, he’s taught me so much already. I’m learning stuff I didn’t know and might have never known.
“I’m trying to get getter week-to-week, and he’s pushing me. And I don’t want him to lay low with me. I want him to push me. I’m here to listen and learn. My goal is to play right away, that’s what I’m working toward.”