By Robert Haleblian
In the quarterback-rich nature of Southern California football, it is easy to get lost in the mix. With Josh Rosen at UCLA and Sam Darnold at USC, the scene is at an all-time high. In a time where big names and big schools dominate headlines, Pasadena’s own Andrew Elffers is making a name for himself in a less traditional way.
“A huge reason for why I chose APU [was that] I just felt something different about the school,” said Elffers. “The main thing that attracted me to APU was that it was a faith based institution. When I was [deciding] between the Division I offers or going to APU, a Division II school, I knew APU was going to be the best school for me to develop my character as a man, a man of integrity, and as a hard worker [who] cares for others more than [myself].”
Born in Pasadena, Elffers opted to remain local and attended Maranatha High School, where he became one of the best quarterbacks in the area. He also ran track and played basketball with the Minutemen.
“No matter what sport I [play], I love competing and I love to find a way to be the best,” he said.
The talented athlete was limited his senior year after tearing his meniscus, and later decided to redshirt his first year at APU.
He admits he was in for a shock after being out for a while.
“My first game back was against Grand Valley State [in 2015], and they got some big dudes over there. I remember taking my first snap and looking at the defensive ends and being like, ‘Sheesh these guys are like five times the size of the defensive ends in high school.’”
However, Elffers didn’t let it get to his head.
“It’s part of my nature, being a competitor and being competitive ever since a young age,” he said. “I love a challenge and I love being pushed out of my comfort zone.”
The young quarterback wasn’t fazed and scored a 16-yard touchdown to lift the Cougars over the Lakers in double overtime, 26-23.
The victory gave Elffers a confidence that has sparked a change in the culture at APU. For only the second time in school history, the Cougars were ranked in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 last year, and the former Maranatha star helped Azusa Pacific qualify for the Division II playoffs for the first time in the program’s history.
“[The program is] on the rise, for sure,” Elffers said. “I think it’s just the beginning. We have some great coaches [who] pour into good men and I think it’s just the beginning for us.”
While reaching great heights, being ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation at one point, Azusa was ousted in the first round of playoffs by Sioux Falls, 34-21.
Elffers walked away from the experience believing the program will improve.
“I would love to see the team collectively improve on our discipline,” he said. “I know there are plays where we could have hindered some mistakes. Our coaches teach us this all the time, but stick to your assignment and [don’t] go outside of that and we’ll see the fruits, and that could take us to the next level of being a solid team.”
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds, Elffers is a physical presence in the backfield, totaling 33 career touchdowns and only five interceptions. Closing in on 800 rushing yards, he is a rare breed of quarterback who can burn opposing defenders through the air or on the ground.
“Andrew’s accolades and records speak to what he does on the football field,” said APU head football coach Victor Santa Cruz, “and his football accomplishments are produced by the character of leader he is in every aspect of his life. Andrew possesses a rare combination of leadership with a high standard of excellence with unsurpassed compassion for teammates which have already elevated him to a historic figure within our program.”
The recent success of APU hasn’t gone unnoticed as ESPN selected the program for its Division II showcase for the second time in the past four years. The Cougars’ game against Central Washington will be live streamed on ESPN 3 on Oct. 28, but Elffers isn’t affected by the extra attention or his stock going into an NFL draft. The quarterback is solely focused on Week 1.
“To be honest, my main priority is this season and the first game coming, which is West Texas A&M,” he said. “Each game that comes ahead of us is my priority, and afterwards I can deal with [pro interest], but now, it’s about winning each game.”
APU is hoping for a magical year this season, and Elffers is ready to embrace the leadership role.
“I know a leader who is respectable and is admired by his teammates is someone that leads by example,” he said. “I always want to lead first with my actions, and then with my talk. I always try to be the guy who pushes the most weight in the weight room, runs the hardest and gives the most effort during field workouts. I would say that’s how you get good, just leading by actions and letting everything else just fall into place.”