HEAD OF HIS CLASS

Columbus East defensive back Nick Andrie obviously is more comfortable stopping a 220-pound fullback than answering questions about his academic prowess.

Is he a good student?

After a long pause, Andrie nodded affirmatively.

So how good a student?

No answer, but just a smile.

Does he carry a 4.0 or higher average?

Another long pause followed by an affirmative nod.

Right before host Columbus East’s 28-21 victory against Columbus North in the annual rivalry game Friday, Andrie’s hard work in the classroom became even more apparent.

The U.S. Army, which had recognized the North-East game as one of the Great American Rivalry Series contests for 2015, honored Andrie, a senior, as being the East football team’s top student.

Considering that Andrie, who eventually wants to be an engineer, would like to attend a military academy after high school, that award can’t hurt.

And while West Point would be an honor, or the Air Force Academy, Andrie has the U.S. Naval Academy at the top of his list.

But any of the academies would work quite nicely.

“I like the values and ideals that they instill,” he said. “And I like the challenge. I never wanted to take the easy route.”

Andrie remembered hearing a classroom Skype interview with a West Point graduate during his eighth-grade year. After hearing the story, he started researching the military academies.

“It’s right up my alley,” he said.

East coach Bob Gaddis said Andrie’s work has paid off both in the classroom and on the football field.

“Nick is smart, No. 1 in his class,” Gaddis said. “And he has a chance to be as good as any player we’ve ever had at safety. He is smart, can run, and is physical.

“He is very confident, and he makes all the calls for us. He’s the whole package.”

At the college level, Andrie will be a physically smaller package than most who play Division I football. Gaddis said Andrie is showing his smarts by considering “Sprint Football,” which features players 172 pounds and lighter.

It formerly was referred to as “lightweight” football and now features nine collegiate programs, including Army and Navy.

Andrie, who is 5-11, 170, is smart enough to know that he might come up a bit short in terms of major college football size requirements. He also noted that the Navy’s Division I squad usually keeps only a minimum number of walk-ons.

Of course, that’s all in the future. Right now, he needs to continue his role as a playmaker for the East defense as the Olympians (2-0) try to position themselves to win more titles.

That would seem to be a tall order with so many important decisions to make about his future. Does his future decisions wear on him?

“No,” he said quickly. “Coach Gaddis always says, ‘When it is football time, it is our time.’ We put everything else behind us during that time.”

Gaddis and defensive coordinator Eddie Vogel come up with different ways to use Andrie, a key weapon, on defense.

“I play a little bit of both safeties,” he said. “I just like being on defense. We all work together to make every play.”

Although beating Columbus North was a big thrill, Andrie is ready to move down the road to the next game. “We just play the way we play, every snap,” he said.

He has been able to play every snap despite coming off knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus this past summer. He missed a lot of the summer workouts but returned to top form by the season-opener.

In two games, Andrie has 13 tackles, one for loss and a caused fumble.

At a glance

Nick Andrie

SCHOOL: Columbus East

YEAR: Senior

POSITION: Safety

SIZE: 5-foot-11, 170

2015 STATS (two games): 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, one caused fumble

DID YOU KNOW: Andrie is a straight-A student who is applying to the military academies