No splitting hairs: UNH's coiffed cornerback has a flair for football

New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell is not a fan of Casey DeAndrade’s lengthy locks and what at times is a scraggily beard.

In the overall scheme of things, though, the defensive back’s hair and facial growth are mere blips on the screen when considering all that he means to the Wildcats on and off the field. Nobody knows better than the veteran coach.

“Everybody kids him about the beard and the long hair,” said McDonnell, who is entering his 18th season at the helm of his alma mater. “But he is a terrific athlete and a really instinctive football player. He is the best leader by example that we could probably have within the program. He is a kid that does a lot of things the right way.”

Heady praise, indeed. That is a good thing especially when considering DeAndrade has no intention of having the shears administered anytime soon.

“As much as Coach Mac and others would like me to cut my hair I am not going to cut it yet,” said the fifth-year senior corner. “I am going to give it one more season and I will see from there.”

DeAndrade started to get top-heavy when he and his older brother Justin made a bet about who could grow their hair the longest. Some bets take a while to settle; the deal was made when DeAndrade was a junior in high school.

“We both have not cut it since then,” he said.

DeAndrade has certainly cut it on the field and in the classroom during his time in Durham. As far as academics are concerned the kinesiology major gives credit to Justin, who was a receiver at Division III Worcester (Mass.) State.

“My brother was a great athlete in high school, but he didn’t have the grades,” he said. “He always told me to learn from him and learn from the mistakes he made. It was good for me to hear that at a young age.”

DeAndrade must have listened attentively. Last season he was named to the FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star Team as well as earning CAA academic honors. The latter is something he has accomplished each year at UNH.

The East Bridgewater, Mass., native’s aptitude and calm demeanor carry not just onto the gridiron, but are present within the team environment. That is something that especially the younger players feed off.

“With his compassion and understanding he brings levelheadedness to the locker room,” said McDonnell. “He has a presence about him and it is not something outwardly domineering. But when he is there everybody magnetizes to him. He gets 'it' and that 'it' makes him special to me as a coach.”

DeAndrade gets “it” on the field as well and has overcome back and knee surgeries. A year ago he led the Wildcats in tackles (76) and passes broken up (10) while averaging 11.3 yards per punt return. It was a level of production that earned him All-CAA First Team honors as a corner and punt returner for the second consecutive year. He is a 2016 preseason all-conference selection at corner.

Following spring practice DeAndrade was one of three seniors to be appointed captain. Quarterback Adam Riese and linebacker Ryan Farrell are the others. It is an appointment he does not take lightly.

“When you look around at all the captains of the past, players like (running back) Matt Evans and (quarterback) Ricky Santos, who are legends at UNH, to have my name with those guys is an honor for me and the two other captains,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for us to hopefully instill some lessons in the younger kids and go from there.”

DeAndrade instilled many a lesson during the spring semester by spending 16 weeks as a student teacher, eight weeks each at the elementary and high school levels. It could very well have served a preview for things to come career wise.

For now, though, DeAndrade has a season to prepare for and one final opportunity at UNH to, ahem, let his hair down. The Wildcats went 7-5 last season, which included a first-round FCS playoff defeat to Colgate.

“It’s crazy that I am talking about my senior year already,” he said. “We had a tough finish last season. But we are a better team than we were at the end of last season. This summer has been the best since I have been here. Everybody passed their conditioning tests and stuff like that. We are looking forward to the season.”

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