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2017-2018 ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Glenwood's Andrew Blum

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

“Competition makes us faster but collaboration makes us better.”

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The adage is an old one, but it sounds very much like something Andrew Blum might say.

Of all the glittering accomplishments of his athletic career, of which there are many, the Glenwood standout basketball and football player doesn’t reflect on what he did on the hardwood or the gridiron. He instead leans his hefty legacy on what his teams did.

“My attitude is if you have a good group of kids all working hard and doing the things to make something happen, then good things happen,” said Blum. “I don’t ever envision myself losing at anything so yeah, I always thought we were going to get W’s in every sport.”

Blum is The Opinion-Tribune’s 2017-2018 Athlete of the Year.

Just how good was Blum’s senior season?

In addition to earning All-Hawkeye 10 conference honors in basketball and football – for the second straight season – Blum started all 10 games under center on the Rams’ playoff football team and was a first team selection on the Iowa Newspaper Association Class 3A All-State Basketball Team. He leaves as the Rams’ second all-time leading scorer and a top three career rebounder.

Oh, and he just happened to lead Glenwood to it’s first state basketball championship in March.

Blum can safely be referred to as the only Glenwood athlete to quarterback the Rams in a state semifinal – as he did his junior year – and be named captain of the all-tournament team at state basketball.

“It’s pretty cool what those teams did,” Blum said. “I’m just happy to have been a part of those teams. We have so many great athletes coming up that will do some amazing things and they’ll get their names recognized too. But it’s nice to have set the bar and let these younger kids learn from that what they can accomplish when you work hard. Hopefully they can keep raising the bar.”

Since he set foot in high school, Blum has been raising the bar – his own and the basketball and football programs’. He credits much of his success to a rare competitive nature born in driveway pickup games with his parents and younger brother and a healthy dose of confidence.

Blum had played on AAU travel teams since the sixth grade against top talent. In high school he typically saw the opponents’ best defender. He always knew his role and relished the opportunity of big moments.

“I saw a lot of great competition on all levels and that gets you ready when you get to high school,” he said.
Blum and a core group of seniors that had played together since childhood helped form the state basketball championship team. He said you could see that connection they had on the court.

“My freshman year, having playing with the same guys for a while and going undefeated in middle school, I felt like we were going to be really good,” Blum said. “We wanted to carry that on in high school, we can’t settle for average when we get there. It was in all of our heads that we were going to do something special. And we did.”

But the Rams’ state title almost never was.

Down 20 points to Norwalk in the opener, Glenwood could have easily folded and taken it’s second state tournament bid in the four seasons and gone home.

And then a funny thing happened.

The Rams rallied and pulled out the shocking comeback.

Blum is well aware of how close his team came to going home early. They’d dealt with similar disappointment the previous two years in heartbreaking substate final losses that ended his sophomore and junior seasons early.

“Before that (opening) game, it seemed like there was a lot of nerves going around,” he said. “Which you could see in the first half obviously. But after we came back we decided: if we can comeback from that, if we play our best, we can’t be stopped. That became our mentality and it carried us all the way through.”

An upset of top seeded and two-time defending champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in the semifinals followed. And then Glenwood – with so little basketball tradition to speak of many of the 8,000 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines were asking “Where’s Glenwood?” – stunned Class 3A with a state title victory over a much bigger and heavily favored Oskaloosa squad.

Blum played an integral role in all three wins that secured the single greatest season in Ram basketball history. He led the team in points, rebounds and blocked shots and provided smothering defense on players often five to six inches bigger than him.

“The locker room after the games were amazing,” Blum recalled. “The looks on everybody’s faces and the sheer joy whether you scored two points or didn’t play or you scored 20, everyone was so happy to be a part of this together.”

One might think that sort of basketball success would make Blum’s choice to pursue football in college a difficult one. And it certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but one it’s one he’s happy with.

“It’s pretty dang close in terms of which one I like the most,” he said. “I’d have to say football. I’m glad I’m choosing football. There are no regrets. But I will miss playing basketball but I’m going to love playing football.”

Blum’s path to college football began his junior season while playing safety, wide receiver and quarterback for a Rams’ squad that made it all the way to the Class 3A semifinals. He’d had modest interest from Division II colleges in both basketball and football until a scholarship offer from Northwest Missouri State materialized the summer before his junior year. An offer from the powerhouse Bearcats was too much for Blum to pass up.

“My junior year during the football season I felt like I was having a pretty good season and talking to (college) coaches and just hearing what they had to say,” Blum said. “Six-three or 6-foot-4 doesn’t get your real far in basketball. You have to be 6-6 and 6-8 to do those things. So I figured I like to hit people and I like football and I had a pretty good offer so it felt like the place to go.”

Seeing himself forgo basketball, the sport he’d excelled at since fifth grade, for football in college may not have been a hard choice but picturing where the Bearcat coaches saw him might have been a harder sell.

Linebacker. A position he had never played.

“I didn’t really play any linebacker in high school,” said the 6-foot-4, 200 pounder. “But to be a (college) safety you have to be able to sprint pretty fast so moving down to linebacker made a lot of sense. I liked offense and catching the ball too but I also liked hitting people and defense. But defense is where I wanted to be.”

The plan is for him to redshirt this season to get bigger and strong and learn the new position but he didn’t rule out seeing the field. A recent change to NCAA eligibility rules allow players to participate in up to four games while maintaining their redshirt status.

As Blum walks away from the hardwood and Glenwood and into his new position and Maryville, he shrugs off the idea of assessing his own legacy. He’s more eager to talk about being a part of a winning culture.

“That’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he said. “I can’t wait to come back and see my brother play and all those teammates and after they graduate come back and see us still winning in Glenwood. That would be big for me.”