By Dan Harrison
---- — The large majority of high school football players know what it is like to play through an injury, waiting until the offseason for a particular ailment to be healed.
North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie senior Andrew Moles never had that luxury. Every time he strapped on his helmet and ran onto the field, he battled much more than a physical ailment.
Moles is blind in one eye and deaf in one ear, but that didn’t stop him from playing the game he loves. The Bulldogs second-string defensive end was a key contributor both at practice and in games.
Later this month, the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association will honor Moles as one of a handful of recipients of the Paul Costello Courageous Player Award at its annual banquet at Lantana’s in Randolph. It is awarded to football seniors who have played while physically challenged, endured a hardship or in some way have served an inspiration to their teams.
“Playing football at North Shore Tech is one of the greatest experiences of my life. It taught me so much about football and life in general,” said Moles, who lives in Danvers. “(The award) is a huge honor. When I found out, I was speechless.”
Recently retired Bulldogs’ head coach Paul Worth, on the other hand, was overflowing with compliments about what he considers to be one of the hardest working kids he’s coached.
“It speaks volumes to the character of the boy himself. He knew what his disabilities were, but he continued to try and continued to compete. He’s going to be a great success in life because he’s willing to compete no matter the difficulty,” said Worth.
“Some kids we’ve had have been really gifted, but they don’t work at it and it’s a shame. But this kid worked at everything.”
Recent recipients of the award have been St. John’s Prep triplets Jared, Brandon and Tyler Coppola in 2010, as well as Erik Ciocca of Masconomet in the same year. The only other North Shore Tech player to receive the award was Kevin Campbell in the late 1990s.
Moles’ impairments weren’t indicative of his athletic ability. According to Worth, Moles came in as a freshman with a cannon of an arm and the football staff tried him at quarterback, but his vision didn’t allow him to see the whole field and also made depth perception difficult. So Moles moved to the other side of the ball at defensive end. And while he didn’t see varsity playing time until his senior year, when the opportunity came Moles made the most of it.
In his first career start against Tri-County, Moles made several tackles and had a pair of sacks. Then against Chelsea, Moles had a huge sack on the Red Devils’ quarterback.
Those moments almost never happened, though: Moles actually decided not to play his junior season, but it didn’t take long for him to realize how much he valued the game of football, so he came back out for the squad last fall as a senior.
“After two weeks of not playing I realized I probably made one of worst decisions in my life,” said Moles. “Just being there being with my teammates and with my coaches and that brotherhood that you form (is what he missed).”
In his three years with the team, Moles never missed a day of practice; in the summer, he was always in the weight room training to keep his body right.
If you watched him practice or play, you’d never know Moles was audibly or visually impaired.
“I’m not even sure every kid on team knew,” said Worth. “A lot of the kids did know and they loved watching him play, He was a leader at practice, never questioned the coaches and did what he was told to do. And kids just followed him.”
Moles’ dedication isn’t limited to the football field’ he’s a member of the North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie baseball team and a devoted student. He will attend the University of New Hampshire next year with his sights set on a degree in history or political science.