Andrews must answer weight concerns

INDIANAPOLIS -- Shawn Andrews isn't breathing easy as he awaits April's NFL draft.

A few days after the scouting combine in Indianapolis, the Arkansas right tackle, once projected to be among the top 10 players in the draft, will undergo nasal surgery to remove polyps. For Andrews, the surgery will enable him to breathe normally for the first time since his early youth.

But what coaches and general managers interested in drafting him will be holding their breathe about is how Andrews handles his weight issues. A little over a month ago, Andrews ballooned to 401 pounds because his blocked sinuses prevented him from working out. Over the past month, Andrews ate better and trained better in Arizona and is back at 366 pounds.

"I lost 35 to 38 pounds in a month, working out twice a day," Andrews said. "I've been working out in Arizona at Athletes' Performance. They taught me how to eat for performance instead of for pleasure. Being from the South and getting that good old fashion soul food didn't help. Now, I know better."

Still, the news of his excess weight could turn him from a Top 10 choice into a pick toward the bottom of the first round and how he handles himself after the surgery will be closely judged. While most of the players in the draft are peaking physically for their individual workouts, Andrews will be dieting.

"I hope a lot of people, knowing that I was weighing 401 pounds will be looking to see how I do and that will determine where I go," Andrews said. "They will try to see if I have the will to work and the will to prepare. I look at the 401 pounds as a little mishap that happens and it won't happen again."

While a drop out of the top 10 will cost him millions, fixing his health is the first thing on his agenda. Andrews' sinus condition got so bad his doctor advised him to sit out Arkansas' game in the Independence Bowl.

"The real story is that I had polyps develop in my nasal passage," Andrews said. "Sinus problems is what I've been dealing with most of my life. At that time, it seemed to have gotten worse. I went to the doctor about it. I got fed up because I couldn't study. I couldn't sleep. It kept me up late at night. It was very agitating. The doctor advised me not to play."

His right nasal passage was completely blocked. The left one was blocked 50 percent. Dr. James Suen told him the dangers of having dust or dirt get in his nose. Suen said the polyps could burst.

"That would cause a serious problem because they were growing in back toward my brain," Andrews said.

Andrews started taking antibotics and steroids to help him until he had the operation. The polyps didn't blow up but his weight did and he used his improved breathing to eat everything in sight in January and February.

"They told me the steroids would cause me to retain water, but that's not my full excuse," Andrews said. "I was doing a little eating, too. It was kind of a counter balance. I had to give up the pizza buffet and the quarter pounders with extra cheese and Big Mac Sauce. I am learning how to eat for the rest of my life. I don't want to be in a position where I could endanger myself."

For the past month, Andrews has been getting a crash course in better eating. That education will have to carry him because the recovery time for the surgery he is going to have is three weeks. He won't be able to run or lift. He has to eat enough of the right foods to make sure he doesn't go back to 401 pounds.

To make matters worse, he is scheduled to work out for teams on March 24. That leaves maybe a week for him to prepare for all of the drills.

Scouts know he is gifted. He was a two-time All-American. His feet are particularly quick. He's an incredible athlete for someone who is 360 pounds. He can dominate a defensive end at right tackle and he might even have the ability to move to left tackle.

But if he shows up at the workout out of shape and weighing close to 400 pounds, his stock in the draft will surely be hurt.

"My trainers are concerned about that," Andrews said. "But I know now how to eat better and train better. So it's not a big factor."

Andrews comes from an incredibly gifted family of athletes. His brother, Stacy, is also at the combine as a draftable offensive lineman from Mississippi. He's 6-6, 342. The most amazing part of his bid to be drafted is that he's only played the game one year. He went to Mississippi on a track scholarship and was talked into going out for the football team this fall. Stacy will be one of the more interesting second-day picks.

He didn't hurt himself by pumping 225-pound weights 34 times Thursday to show his strength.

"My coach talked me into doing that and I'm glad he did," Stacy Andrews said. "I'm bigger and faster than Shawn. The difference between the two of us is experience. I only have one year experience. He's been playing since junior high and high school."

Another brother, Derrick, is a sergeant serving in Iraq. Shawn's sleepless nights because of his sinuses were nothing compared to what Derrick is dealing with. He's a weapons specialist.

"He's been over there for nine months, and he's in the midst of everything that's going on," Shawn said. "When he's testing, he's taking on cross fire. He said that two or three in the morning he's been awakened by bombs going off."

Compared to Derrick, Shawn's challenge may seem insignificant, but the next month could determine his financial future. General managers around the combine say they are concerned about Andrews' weight problems and the fact that he can jump from 350 pound to 400 pounds so quickly. That will drop his stock.

Ultimately, Andrews plans to be a 335-pounder in the NFL, but that obviously can't happen before his individual workout. The surgery will make it difficult for him to be in the 360-pound range by March 24 and millions of dollars are on the line.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.