Gold Jacket Spotlight: Andre Tippett took career to higher degree
Not only did Andre's football performances earn him enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, but the dominating linebacker is a seventh-degree black belt in Uechi-Ryu karate.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection and accomplished martial artist, Andre's career in and out of football shines in the Gold Jacket Spotlight this week.
"Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, I had to learn to protect myself," Andre told WCVB TV in an interview. "It's not just the kicking and punching to me. It's the whole history and the system and the curriculum."
Andres speed, agility and quickness, which former Patriots speed and conditioning coach Dean Brittenham attributed to the karate training, were obvious to coaches and competitors.
"There's no question karate has helped him become so quick with his hands and feet. Because he's so flexible, he works through a greater range of motion," Brittenham said. "All that kicking has really developed his stomach, which is where the center of power is. He's able to stabilize the rest of the body so he has a platform to launch either a kick or a punch. Most guys don't have that base of power."
Hall of Fame quarterback and division rival JIM KELLY observed, "He's probably the quickest guy I've ever seen at linebacker, and definitely you have to change your style of offense to compensate for his ability to rush the passer."
"It's my secret weapon," Andre declared in the television interview. "Through my training and fast hands, leverage and manipulation, I was doing things to people they didn't know that was being done to them until the play was over."
"Seeing a linebacker as awesome looking as Tippett makes you think a little about your health and welfare," Andra Franklin, a former Miami Dolphins running back, once said.
Frank Verducci, Andre's high school football coach, reflected on Andre's willingness to learn the curriculum of football in a 1986 San Francisco Chronicle story.
"The thing I liked about Andre was he would listen," Verducci said. "He wanted to be too good too fast. But he followed directions. He showed me he had a lot of character."
Andre described his entry into the game of football during a "Lessons from Legends" presentation from the College Football Hall of Fame.
"I got grabbed one day my freshman year in high school. Hadn't played Pop Warner, didn't play youth football. They said 'Hey, they're having JV tryouts,' " he recalled. "We were out there going through the drills before they decide to do anything. That goes on for about two weeks. The list goes up and I don't make the team. I was determined next year I was going to make the squad, and I did."
The next season, Andre made the team and experienced the success playing the game can provide.
"I am starting to see the early success of what can happen based on good teams, quality coaching," he said. "Next thing you know we are in the state championship in New Jersey. We win it. Now I am fully hooked. I am all in, 100%, and that is how I got into the game."
Andre's "all-in" discovery led him to an All-American career at the University of Iowa and a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
Upon retirement from an 11-season career in New England, Andre moved into the offices of the Patriots and currently serves as the club's executive director of Community Affairs.
"Andre was a favorite of mine throughout his career. I wanted to find a way to take advantage of the goodwill and his reputation in a classy way," remarked Patriots owner Robert Kraft in the Boston Herald in May 1994.
"If I'm sharp enough and keep my nose to the grindstone and do a good job with this opportunity Mr. Kraft has given me, nothing is out of the picture," Andre told the Herald at the time of his hiring.
Several years later, it is clear: Andre has, once again, taken his role to a higher degree.
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