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Well-Rounded Performer : Raider Tight End Andrew Glover Was a Three-Sport Star at Grambling, Excelling in Football, Basketball and Track

August 19, 1994|LONNIE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One hot afternoon in May at a San Fernando Valley three-on-three basketball tournament, it was hard not to notice a tall, strong, agile player with enough skills to make him stand out among the best athletes in the top division.

Almost effortlessly, he dominated his competition. He showed inside power with dunks and rebounds, then displayed quickness and touch with jump shots and creative passes.

Before long, the buzz among the crowd was that the young player had to be a Laker or a Clipper taking a break from his NBA schedule. With that kind of size and that kind of talent, they figured, he had to be a pro.

And the crowd was right. Sort of. The player they marveled at is indeed a pro. But he's a pro in another sport.

Meet Andrew Glover, new starting tight end for the Raiders and probably the best-kept-secret two-sport standout in the NFL.

"Growing up, I always thought that if I'd ever make it professionally, it would be in basketball," said Glover, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound four-year Raider veteran. "I was always tall and lean, so I figured basketball would be my sport."

That all changed in April of 1991, when the Raiders decided that Glover had the makings of a tight end and picked him in the 10th round of the draft.

What the Raiders saw in Glover was an athlete good enough not only to play three sports at Grambling, but good enough to excel in all three.

Playing under legendary Coach Eddie Robinson, Glover was a two-year starter, lining up at either wide receiver or tight end in football.

He averaged 22.2 yards a catch as a junior, with 17 receptions for 378 yards, including six catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns in an NCAA playoff game against Stephen F. Austin. As a senior, Glover did not

see the ball as much, catching 10 passes for 246 yards and five touchdowns.

Not a bad career, but not as good as his stint as a basketball player. He was a three-year starter at center, and as a senior was an All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection after averaging 16 points and nine rebounds.

Glover's best sport, however, was track and field. He was a three-year letter winner and a two-time SWAC champion in the triple jump.

"In college, I just kept busy year round," said Glover, who graduated with a criminal justice degree. "It wasn't as if I was surprised to be drafted by the Raiders. I just didn't think that my career would be in football. It just ended up that way, where football came first and I couldn't look back."

When Glover joined the Raiders, his athletic ability helped him make the team as a rookie. Playing mostly on special teams and as the team's extra tight end on short-yardage situations, he played in all 16 league games and caught five passes, three for touchdowns.

In 1992, Glover got more playing time and caught 15 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. Then last season, Glover gave an indication of his ability when he caught four passes for 55 yards and scored a key touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

Glover got his big break during the off-season, when veteran starter Ethan Horton signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins. With a chance to earn the starting position, Glover worked hard to rehabilitate a knee injury he suffered late last season at Green Bay.

"I had to take a lot of time off and give my knee some rest," Glover said. "(Afterward) I did a lot of heavy weightlifting to get stronger and a lot of running to help my quickness."

Getting stronger is something Glover--nickname Pancho--has done since he was drafted. Before he played his first game as a rookie, Glover's best bench press was barely more than 225 pounds. His best now is 360.

"Pancho has always been a strong type of player, but now he's really coming into his own," Coach Art Shell said. "He's had a real good training camp and we're looking for big things from him."

So far, Glover has held onto his starting position despite competition from free agent Jamie Williams, former UCLA fullback Kevin Smith and converted running back Nick Bell.

"It was a different feeling coming in this season, knowing that the team is counting on you to make a contribution more than you had in the past," Glover said. "This is just a great opportunity for me. I didn't feel like the job was mine. I knew that I would have to come out and earn it and that's the way I wanted it to be."

Glover could become a key target for quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who likes to have a big tight end wreaking havoc on opposing secondaries down the middle.

"He's the man," Hostetler said. "I'll tell you what, he's had an extremely good camp and I'm really proud of him. He's responded to the challenge and came in healthy and prepared.

"He's a very important part for us. Everyone hears about our wideouts, wideouts . . . but that only means that our backs and tight ends have to come through."

Glover credits his improvement to his off-season workout schedule, which included plenty of basketball. He played in summer leagues and celebrity games all around Southern California.

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