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Memory of Shawnee Mission West star Andre Maloney still prominent

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at 6:17 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, at 7:06 a.m.

Photos

Kansas recruiting outlook

Top five recruits

Corey Avery, ATH, NR, 5-10, 170, Dallas Carter

Avery, a 5-foot-10 athlete, was one of the top prospects in the Dallas area. Texas’ interest cooled when Mack Brown left, but Nebraska was on him until the end. He could play in the slot, similar to KU receiver Tony Pierson.

Traevohn Wrench, RB, NR, 6-0, 180, Gardner-Edgerton

A prolific and powerful running back, Wrench was rated as the No. 2 prospect in the state of Kansas by Rivals.com. He put up video-game numbers at Gardner-Edgerton.

Jacob Bragg, OL, NR, 6-4, 308, Nacogdoches, Texas

Bragg is the kind of talent that new offensive coordinator John Reagan will attempt to mold into a difference-maker up front. Bragg was a top-100 player in Texas.

Kyron Watson, LB, NR, 6-0, 226, East St. Louis, Ill.

Rated as a four-star recruit by some services, Watson was rated as the No. 21 prospect in Missouri by Rivals.

Joe Dineen, DB, NR, 6-2, 197, Lawrence Free State

Perhaps Dineen, a KU legacy, doesn’t have the high ceiling of some prospects. But he has the blend of athleticism, talent and character that all programs covet.

The one that got away

Kansas devoted plenty of resources to the recruitment defensive lineman Peyton Newell, a four-star recruit from Hiawatha, Kan. But in the end, Newell picked Nebraska over KU and K-State.

Still fishing for …

Offensive linemen? The Jayhawks signed a handful of them, but after last season, KU could use some immediately upgrades in the trenches.

Position answered for …

Athletes. So, it’s not really a position. But for two years, KU’s offense has lacked playmakers. The addition of Corey Avery, who can play running back or receiver, Traevohn Wrench and juco running back De’Andre Mann should help upgrade team speed.

Position unanswered for …

Receiver. Charlie Weis signed some prospects from Texas who could make an impact in the long-term. But the receiving corps will be a question mark until the Jayhawks see some results on the field.

Signed

Ronnie Davis, DB, 6-1, 170, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M

Keyon Haughton, OL, 6-2, 295, Georgia Military (Milledgeville, Ga.)

Anthony Smithson, DB, 6-0, 180, Hartnell College (Salinas, Calif.)

Commitments

Corey Avery, ATH, 5-10, 170, Dallas Carter

Matthew Boateng, DB, 6-0, 180, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Jacob Bragg, OL, 6-4, 308, Nacogdoches, Texas

Darious Crawley, WR, 5-11, 191, Houston Cypress Ridge

Joe Dineen, DB, 6-2, 197, Lawrence Free State

Josh Ehambe, LB, 6-3, 230, Arlington (Texas) Prime Prep Academy

Kapil Fletcher, DE, 6-4, 255, Hartnell College

Bobby Hartzog, WR, 5-11, 182, Houston Westside

Lay’Trion Jones, DT, 6-3, 285, Garland (Texas) High

De’Andre Mann, RB, 5-10, 205, Hartnell College

Damani Mosby, DE, 6-3, 235, Mesa (Ariz.) CC

Derrick Neal, WR, 5-10, 155, Dallas Lincoln

Anthony Olobia, DE, 6-5, 230, Arizona Western CC

Tyler Patrick, WR, 5-11, 171, The Woodlands (Texas)

Apa Visinia, OL, 6-5, 380, KC (Mo.) Grandview

Kyron Watson, LB, 6-0, 226, East St. Louis, Ill.

D.J. Williams, DT, 6-3, 270, Lufkin (Texas) High

Devon Williams, OT, 6-5, 335, Georgia Military (Milledgeville, Ga.)

Daniel Wise, DE, 6-2, 242, Hebron High

Traevohn Wrench, RB, 6-0, 180, Gardner-Edgerton

— On the day he committed to play football Kansas, Andre Maloney worked a night shift at a local grocery store.

Andre never really told his family what he did there, and to this day, his cousin, Karla Montoya, still isn’t sure. Some days, she says, Andre might have been working in the store deli. Other days, it was sacking groceries.

It was a simple part-time job: a high school football star trying to make a few dollars on the side, and it was just like Andre. Play sports, ponder his future, then quietly hustle to do more work.

“Andre wanted to be independent,” says Tim Callaghan, Andre’s football coach at Shawnee Mission West. “He didn’t want his mother to have to worry about him.”

For Andre, 17, that meant a scholarship and a promise. On June 19, when he sat in Kansas coach Charlie Weis’ office, Andre, a soon-to-be senior, was one of the most coveted players in the Kansas City area. K-State wanted him. So did Missouri.

But here was Weis, offering something that the others couldn’t: A chance to play 40 minutes from his mother, Rosaelida.

“I never knew football could help me in a financial way,” Andre wrote in a school essay during the first months of his senior year. “… My mom was so proud of me. I felt really glad because my mom doesn’t have to pay for college.”

All across America, these are the stories that can make National Signing Day the pinnacle for any high school senior. On Wednesday, thousands of young athletes will sign college letters of intent, living out dreams and charting futures.

But inside the halls of Shawnee Mission West, and down the road at Kansas, something will be missing. Something that has nothing to do with football.

“The smile,” Callaghan says.

“Andre was the Pied Piper,” says Tim Grunhard, the former KU assistant who recruited Andre to Kansas.

“Andre had a lot of potential to be someone,” Montoya says. And if it wasn’t for what had happened, he would have.”

This is the Andre they remember.

On the day before he died, Andre Maloney was selling cookies at school to raise money for breast cancer research. When KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard called that day to check in on one of his top recruits, Andre was cleaning up.

“He was all excited because he made $4 at the bake sale,” Grunhard says.

It was a Thursday in October, and SM West, the defending Kansas 6A state champions, had a game that night. Two days later, Andre planned on attending Kansas’ home game against Texas Tech, so Grunhard called to handle the ticket request.

They couldn’t see what would happen in the next few hours, and really, who could? The stroke that felled Andre after he’d hauled in a 63-yard touchdown catch. The blood clot that couldn’t be controlled, causing Andre to slip into a coma. The next day, when friends and family filed into Andre’s hospital room at Research Medical Center to say goodbye.

On that Friday morning, as Andre was still battling for his life, updates began to filter into the KU football offices. By close to 6 a.m., Weis reached Callaghan.

No matter what happens, Weis told Callaghan, Andre will have a scholarship to KU.

“A million things are going through your head,” Weis says, “dying isn’t one you’re really counting on.”

On his Twitter page, Andre often wrote three letters: M.I.B. — “Making it big.” It was the stuff of a kid’s imagination, but when you had Andre’s charisma, it felt honest.

Andre was like so many other kids. He grew up playing soccer. He idolized NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Had a mother who worried about football injuries.

He and Karla, his cousin, were like brother and sister. Andre was born in Texas, but then moved to Kansas City, where he and Karla lived in the same house, raised by his mother and grandmother.

The KU coaches never found out, Karla says, but Andre had grown up a Texas fan. The burnt orange. Vince Young. All that tradition. So Karla was a little surprised when Andre showed so much interest in Kansas.

Maybe she shouldn’t have been. On one of Andre’s visits to Kansas, defensive coordinator Dave Campo, a former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, told Andre that he’d coached Deion Sanders. Andre liked that.

He also liked being so close to his mother. Karla had spent her freshman year at KU. The family could drive 40 minutes to watch him play.

“I think what touched him more was that these were home coaches,” Karla says. “They have families here, and they have stories and they know Kansas.”

A few days before Andre Maloney would have signed to play at Kansas, Charlie Weis sat in his office. He looked at the chair where Andre once sat.

On that day last June, Weis looked at Andre and told him he could be a front-line cornerback in the Big 12.

“Coach,” Andre said. “I like to have the ball in my hands.”

It was the kind of response that Weis loved.

“He played with a chip on his shoulder,” Weis says. “He was cocky. As a corner, you kind of need to have that in you to be any good.”

Nearly four months after Andre died, those that knew him well are still trying to manage and cope.

Karla Montoya is planning a summer seven-on-seven tournament in Andre’s honor. Weis still believes that Andre could have been a great one. A shutdown cornerback. Maybe even a playmaker as a wildcat quarterback. Grunhard left his job at KU, thinking of his four high school-aged kids.

“It affected me to the point, where I kind of said: What am I doing here?” Grunhard says.

And back at SM West, Callaghan has planned something special for the school’s signing day ceremony. In the weeks after Andre died, the Vikings slogged through an emotional finish to the season.

The victories weren’t always there, Callaghan says, but they needed those games to heal. The SM West seniors had 12 players who were supposed to play college football. So Callaghan will bring KU pens for the remaining 11. Together, they will sign to play college football, moving forward together.

“I want them to think about him,” Callaghan says. “No matter where they go, I want them to take a little of Andre with them.”

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