LEWISTON — The safety position in football has one of the least apt titles in all of sports.

Sure, the safety serves as the last line of defense, a cutoff device that keeps the offense from scoring. But, at their best, safeties make it a point to be in harm’s way.

Having played the position virtually his entire football career, Bates College senior Andrew Kukesh knows what it takes to play safety, and plays it as well as anyone in Division III football

Lindy’s Sport selected him as a First Team Div. III Preseason All-American team. He’s also a D3football.com Preseason Second Team All-American after earning a spot on the web site’s All-East Region Second Team following his junior year.

The big (6-foot-1,. 205 pounds), fast, physical safety is the backbone of a defense that helped the Bobcats to a 5-3 record in 2012, their first winning season in 31 years.

“Pursue to the ball, see the ball out and react,” Kukesh said, describing not only his philosophy for playing his position but for Bates’ entire defense. “I’ve been fortunate enough that it’s put me in position to try to make plays.”


A four-year starter, Kukesh was the only freshman named NESCAC all-conference. His six interceptions ranked second in the league and served as a warning to NESCAC quarterbacks of his ball-hawking abilities. He’s picked off 14 passes in his first three years, including six last season, when he tied for the conference lead.

“He’s been an impact player since he came here,” Bates coach Mark Harriman said. “Just to have his presence out there, we’ve been spoiled really for the last four years.”

Taking advantage of Kukesh’s size, mobility and football savvy, the Bobcats are able to do things defensively they might not otherwise do.

They can line him up near the line of scrimmage for run support or keep him deep to guard against the pass and he will still be able to make the play regardless of what the offense does because of his range and ability to diagnose a play.

“Even when he was a first-year, he always just seemed to be in the right place,” Harriman said. “He’s a very disciplined player.”

Disciplined, but fierce. Kukesh is one of the Bobcats’ most physical players. Opposing receivers go over the middle with their head on a swivel. Running backs turn the corner knowing that their may be a price to pay for taking on the second level of the defense. It’s a virtual certainty Kukesh, who led Bates with 43 solo tackles last year, will find them.


“It’s certainly a mentality. It’s the mentality of our entire defense,” Kukesh said. “We want to be a fast and physical defense and have a relentless pursuit to the ball. That’s something that’s engraved into us and really preached from the coaching staff. It’s just something that carries over individually to all of our players.”

Kukesh delivers the message to his teammates as much as opponents, but more through example. He has a work ethic to match his exceptional athleticism and knowledge of the game, so it’s no surprise his teammates selected him as one of two co-captains, along with senior slot Shawn Doherty.

Like a true captain, he deflects the accolades, including his All-American status, to include his teammates.

“I kind of looked at it as really a representation of our defense last year. Our defense had a great year and it’s just something that we want to build off of,” said Kukesh, who is from Exeter, N.H.

With its experienced, play-making defense leading the way, Bates is determined to build off of last year’s overall success, which Kukesh said carried over into this past offseason.

“Compared to the last three offseasons I had before this, this one was a big difference in the atmosphere, the workouts, the intensity of everyone coming back, it was real good,” the economics major said.

The Bobcats stand a good chance of changing the atmosphere for good with Kukesh back.

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