STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Even when Andrew Stripling was a Marble Falls Middle School quarterback, everyone in the Highland Lakes knew he was going to be special.
They could see it as he ran former head coach Matt Green’s spread offense as an eighth- and ninth-grader.
Green thought so much of Stripling that, in 2015, he put the true freshman in during the fourth quarter of the Mustangs’ 27-9 victory over Georgetown East View. Stripling led the Mustangs to a touchdown, which was called back because of penalty, according to Marble Falls head coach Mike Birdwell.
That game put Stripling on his way to leading the Mustangs offense as a sophomore and becoming a three-year starter.
About the only remaining question for Stripling was where he would play college football. He answered that Dec. 19 on the first day of the early signing period for NCAA football when he sent his National Letter of Intent to Abilene Christian University, a Division I-AA program. ACU signed eight players, but the cowbell is the quarterback.
Wildcats head coach Adam Dorrel said Stripling was at the top of ACU’s quarterback board.
“(Stripling’s) been interested in us for a long time, and he actually reached out to us first,” Dorrel said. “Our staff has done a great job fostering that relationship, and we’re excited to get him.”
Stripling was equally excited about playing for ACU.
“Really, it felt right,” he said. “I love the coaches. As we were looking around, it became clear that’s where I want to play. They run an offense I think I can excel in.”
The Wildcats use more of a pro-style offense with the quarterback going under center. ACU returns starting quarterback Luke Anthony, so Stripling knows he’ll be sitting and learning for two years. He said he spent time with Anthony, and the two get along very well. He looks forward to learning plenty from the veteran.
By the time he’ll be competing for the starting job, the Wildcats will have to travel to a very familiar place to face Texas A&M University, Stripling’s favorite Division I-A program. Both of his parents, Kay and Kyle Stripling, as well as brother Ben graduated from there. His other brother, Mike, is finishing his degree at A&M.
“It’s something I always wanted to do is play in a big-time atmosphere,” Andrew Stripling said.
Stripling’s high school coaches said few quarterbacks can process information as quickly as he does. He excels in watching film, recalling his scouting reports, and in pre-read snaps. The quarterback said that simply comes from devoting time to learning the material.
Growing up, Stripling played a couple of different positions, but once he attended Todd Dodge’s summer Quarterback/Receiver Camp, he immediately realized he wanted to play quarterback. Dodge was the Mustangs head coach for two years, one of which was when Stripling was in the seventh grade in 2013.
This past season, Stripling completed 119 of 210 passes for 1,559 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions en route to being named first-team all-District 13-5A Division II and academic all-state. During his three years on the varsity, he completed 404 of 739 passes for 5,077 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He is a two-time all-district selection in boys basketball and also competed on the track team.
Few will argue Stripling’s physical ability or natural tools, as Birdwell called them. What separates Stripling and where he has grown the most is in leadership, something he devoted himself to doing. He noted leading a group of players entails many qualities. He must know when to push them, when to encourage them, when to listen to them, and when to take charge. That leadership extends in virtually every part of campus life, too, where Stripling is a straight-A student.
The quarterback loves to compete, a quality he credits to his large family, which also includes older brother Will, a University of Texas at Austin graduate and attorney, and sister Sarah, who is attending UT and will graduate in May.
The youngest Stripling said he doesn’t care what the game is – cards, board games, on the court or on the field, or playing spoons — he expects to win.
Stripling has worked one on one with several coaches as well. Two are Dustin Vaughn, who is the new starting quarterback for the San Antonio Commanders of the Alliance of American Football, and David Morris of QB Country, a quarterback training and development company in Mobile, Alabama, where the Mustang worked alongside A.J. McCarron, a former University of Alabama quarterback now with the Oakland Raiders, Nick Mullens, the current starter for the San Francisco 49ers, and Jake Fromm, the University of Georgia starting quarterback.
Someone else who helped Stripling is Rich Powers, the Marble Falls High School track-and-field head coach. Powers spent eight years in the Marine Corps, so he helped Stripling with the mental side of sports and life.
“A lot of athletes of his caliber probably go through a lot of adversity, and he has,” Powers said. “It can tear you down or it can build up. It made him stronger.”