Bob Andrus, legendary Wesley football coach, dies

Bob Andrus-Hall of Fame by .

Bob Andrus, left, with former Wesley College men’s coach Jim Wentworth when the two men were inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — His players called Bob Andrus ‘The Bear’ because he reminded them of legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant.

It was a term of both respect and affection for the former Wesley College coach.

“He was very tough but very fair,” said Jerry Kobasa, who was a quarterback on Andrus’ first Wolverine squad in 1967. “Once you were part of him, you were family.”

On Monday evening, Robert George Andrus passed away at a Dover nursing home. The 90-year-old had been in failing health for some time.

Elected to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, Andrus is best known as the longtime football coach at Wesley. But he was also a successful baseball and football coach at Dover High who finished his career as an assistant football coach at Cape Henlopen High in 1989.

Andrus was Wesley’s football coach from 1967 to ‘87. His best years came in the Wolverines’ junior college days.

Between 1967 and ‘76, Wesley went 68-20-3. The Wolverines finished second nationally in the junior college ranks in 1970 when they went to the Sterling Silver Bowl in Kansas.

Andrus was named Coastal Conference Coach of the Year in 1970 and ‘76.

Current Wesley football coach and athletic director Mike Drass said Andrus helped bridge the gap with the school’s football alumni when he became head coach in 1993.

“He was always someone that was so supportive of me and our program, and he didn’t have to be,” said Drass. “He went out of his way to introduce me to former players, come to our golf outing, talk to me before games or after games. I have great respect for him and what he accomplished.”

A number of Andrus’ former junior college players went on to play for major college programs, like Wisconsin, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Minnesota and Florida State. He was a three-time head coach of the Coastal Conference All-Star game.

Kobasa, who later coached with Andrus, said the tough, old-school coach — with his trademark crewcut — was just what many of Wesley’s players needed in his early days.

“He was a father figure to a lot of us,” said Kobasa, who is now the athletic director for the Seaford School District. “You’ve got to remember, a lot of us ended up at Wesley because we really didn’t take school seriously in high school. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us because he’s the reason that we all succeeded.

“We had a friendship that went beyond a friendship. He was always following my career, always calling and telling me how proud he was of me. I owe him so much.”

When Wesley hosted its homecoming game a few weeks ago, Kobasa said many of his former players went to the nursing home to visit Andrus.

In 1959, Andrus was hired as both the football and baseball coach at Dover High. Both his teams went undefeated in 1962 while his Senator football program won 29 straight games at one point.

In ‘62, Andrus was also the first Gold head coach to win the fledgling Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game.

“It was such a great thing here in Delaware,” Andrus in 2006. “Then to lose five and come up with a win, I’ll never forget that.”

There was a great deal of racial divide in the U.S. in the 1960s. But Kobasa said Andrus treated everyone the same, no matter what their ethnic background.

“He was way ahead of his time with that,” said Kobasa. “Coach never saw anything but a football player and he instilled that in us, too.”

Andrus’ last few seasons at Wesley weren’t always easy, especially after the school decided to move its athletic program to the NCAA Division III level. He finished his tenure with the Wolverines with a record of 97-98-3.

But Andrus remained a great supporter of Wesley. One of the grandstands at the Wolverines’ Miller Stadium is named for him.

In 2000, Wesley put together a 30th reunion for the Wolverine squad that finished second in the country.

“You could just tell that they loved him,” said Drass. “That’s the one thing they said, he loved life and he loved his players. And you could see that.

“When I would see him with his players at homecoming or a golf outing, there was a true great feeling. Those feelings that you have with your players when you’re coaching, that bond doesn’t break. It was really interesting to see how those guys still felt the same way about him and he felt the same way about them.

“Forty years later, it was like they could have stepped on the field against Ferrum the next day.”

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A viewing for Andrus will be held on Saturday from 3-4 p.m. at Torbert Funeral Home at 1145 East Lebanon Rd., Dover, with a service immediately following.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you consider donations in Andrus’ memory to the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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