The A-List counts down AL.com’s top senior prospects in the state
A year on the Mobile Christian scout team tested the patience of talented defensive end Andres Fox.
It also tested the health of Jordan Aubrey, the-then Leopards’ starting quarterback. Fox was relegated to the scout team for half of his sophomore and juniors seasons after transferring back to Mobile Christian from Faith Academy.
“I remember (coach) Tommy (Wasden) coming to me and saying, ‘Coach, we’ve got to slow Andres down. He’s killing Jordan,'” Mobile Christian head coach Ronnie Cottrell said. “It was two-hand touch for Andres after that.”
The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Fox finally got on the field for the Leopards late last season and wreaked havoc on Class 3A opponents. He recorded 18 sacks in eight games and sparked Mobile Christian to a state championship matchup against small-school power Piedmont.
From there, major college offers rolled in. Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Stanford and more than 20 other schools have courted Fox, who comes in at No. 8 on AL.com’s A-List of the state’s top senior prospects.
“I did not see all this coming honestly,” Fox said of his rapid rise on recruiting lists. “I had some smaller offers early last year, but nothing like what has happened this spring and summer. It’s been pretty cool.”
THE EARLY PROGRESSION
Fox was born in Decatur, Ga., but his family moved to Mobile before his first birthday. He’s been in South Alabama since.
Though he started playing football when he was just 3, he wasn’t always on the path to stardom. In fact, he didn’t even like the sport at first.
“I think he had too much energy when he was younger,” his mom, Lakrisha Padgett, said. “Andres got distracted real easy. He liked to play in the dirt and kick grass around. He wasn’t really into football. He tried basketball and karate and actually liked karate. He did that for a while.”
“I don’t remember much about karate,” Fox said. “My mom said all I wanted to do was play dodge ball back then.”
Fox first started to get into football when he was 6 or 7 and the family moved to West Mobile. He started playing at Cottage Hill Park, and that was the beginning of what has quickly become a bright career. He not only played defense at the time, but also was an aspiring quarterback.
His parents decided to enroll Fox at Mobile Christian following elementary school, and Padgett said that was a big part of his maturing on and off the football field.
“He calmed down a lot at that point,” Padgett said. “He liked school a lot more and had fun. He had a lot of friends, and that made a big difference.”
A-List No. 8: Mobile Christian’s Andres Fox
BECOMING A LEOPARD
Though no one could have predicted how imposing Fox would become later, his football talent started to really emerge in his early days at Mobile Christian.
Neil Evans, now the head coach at Harding Academy in Searcy, Ark., was the Leopards’ head varsity coach at the time.
“What I remember about Andres in the seventh and eighth grade was that he was very intelligent,” Evans said. “He also had a very high football IQ. He played at Cottage Hill Park and had some success there. I was surprised at just how savvy he was. He had ‘it.’ He always seemed to play like he was a little mad, but he was great for me.”
Evans raved about Fox’s competitiveness, even as a middle-schooler.
“He was a great practice player,” he said. “That’s rare to find in someone with his talent, especially. Those guys usually aren’t great practice guys in the seventh and eighth grade. In fact, it’s almost always the opposite. But Andres loved practice or at least it seemed like that.”
Evans said the football stage was never too big for Fox.
“He played offense and defense at the time,” he said. “When the team needed a big stop, Andres would show up. I would watch those games and be amazed at how often he would make a play when his team had to have it. Everything at that time pointed to him being good. We just had no idea he would get as big as he is now.”
Everything seemed like it was going well for Fox at Mobile Christian, but then he made a decision that ultimately derailed his path for a while.
THE MOVE TO FAITH AND BACK
After Fox’s eighth-grade year, several of his closest friends left Mobile Christian for other schools in the area. Fox decided he wanted to depart as well.
“I kind of begged my parents to leave after some of my friends left,” Fox said.
He transferred to another private school, Class 5A Faith Academy.
“He wanted to go to a bigger school,” Padgett said. “His friends split up and went different ways so Andres didn’t want to be at Mobile Christian by himself. I wasn’t for the move. I didn’t think it would work. But that is what he wanted so we let it happen.”
Fox spent his ninth grade year and the first few weeks of his sophomore year at Faith Academy. But, at that point, he – and his family – decided he needed to return to his original school.
“I wasn’t happy with him there and I wanted him back at Mobile Christian,” Padgett said. “His sister was at Mobile Christian, and she wanted him to come back so that is what we did.”
Fox said the presence of Cottrell, who arrived at Mobile Christian while Fox was at Faith Academy, had a big role in his return to the school.
“I knew of coach and wanted to play for him,” Fox said. “Looking back, I never should have left. At that time, I thought it was over. I never thought I would ever be anything. My plan was just to go back to Mobile Christian and play as hard as I could on the scout team and see what happened.”
THE SCOUT TEAM
One big issue with Fox’s return to Mobile Christian was that Alabama High School Athletic Association rules required him to sit out a year before he could play for the Leopards.
That’s how he started chasing Aubrey as a all-star scout team player.
“That was tough in a lot of ways,” Fox said. “I was hurt. I didn’t really feel like I was part of the team because I couldn’t play. I stayed on the sideline during games and tried to encourage the team. I wanted them to make the state championship game really badly, but I felt helpless.”
Cottrell said he had several one-on-one conversations with Fox.
“It was very difficult for him not to be able to play,” he said. “Andres handled it extremely professionally. He was a great team guy. But when I spoke to him, he told me how much it hurt him not to be out there.”
However, Fox was making the best of it on the scout team and making Aubrey’s practice life tough.
“That part was fun,” Fox joked. “I loved messing with Jordan all the time. Really, that is when I started to love playing on the defensive line.”
That is also when Cottrell and others started to understand the untapped potential they had on their hands.
“I remember early on when Andres was out there, we ran a lead play and (current Arizona player) Troy Young took two steps to his right and two steps forward and Andres just folded him up,” Cottrell said. “It was impressive. Andres made us better that year. He did a phenomenal job.”
That year was 2015. The Leopards finished 10-2, losing at G.W. Long in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs. Safety Keith Gallmon also was impressed with Fox.
“Andres was in the backfield making every play in practice,” Gallmon said. “He would just move me out of the way sometimes. He’s just an animal.”
While Fox was working on the scout team, he was also working in the weight room. He remembers weighing about 200 pounds when he left Faith and “not being strong at all.”
“Andres was about 215,” said Mobile Christian strength and conditioning coach Scott Buzbee. “He was just a long, lean kid. Now, he is approaching 250 and starting to fill those pads out. They want you to look lean at quarterback. We want you to look like an animal on the defensive line.”
Buzbee said Fox’s focus in the weight room and with nutrition has completely changed his body frame.
“His focus is so much better now,” Buzbee said. “It’s all about goal setting. When you set your goals and you know where you want to get and you are committed to get there, then you put in the work to make it happen. Andres definitely has. Everything – speed, size, strength – is coming together for him.”
That started to be evident to the general public during his first game back against Clarke County on Oct. 14, 2016. Fox had 10 tackles and several QB hurries in a 36-21 Mobile Christian win.
“All I was thinking about was playing really good, not letting anyone block me and just doing my job,” he said.
He averaged more than two sacks per game the rest of the way, collecting a season-high five in a 27-0 victory at Cottage Hill Oct. 21.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of guys in college and high school football, and he’s one of the very best I’ve ever coached,” said Cottrell, who also spent time as an assistant at Florida State and Alabama. “What is wonderful is there can still be a huge amount of growth. Andres has not scratched the surface yet of what he can become. There is a huge ceiling. He has a lot of goals and a lot of confidence. I think he’s really just getting started.”
Fox said recently his top four schools at the moment are Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Stanford, in no particular order. He told AL.com last week he is not sure what his timetable is on making an announcement.
His goals for 2017 are to help Mobile Christian get back to the state championship game and win it. Evans has watched his development from several states away.
“I’m happy for Andres,” he said. “It’s very surreal how quickly it (recruiting) exploded for him. It probably has a lot to do with the fact he didn’t have a sophomore year, but he’s quickly become one of the best defensive linemen in the country.
“As just a fan watching him, it is hard to take your eyes off him. He is so physically impressive. He is the kind of guy who can get an NFL contract strictly as a pass rusher. He has that much talent.”