BALTIMORE — Mateo Adajar traveled across the country to see Mark Andrews on Monday to deliver a special message to the Baltimore Ravens’ Pro Bowl tight end.
“I have diabetes, and I love football,” Adajar, a 12-year-old from Danville, California, told Andrews. “When I see you play, it lets me know that diabetes won’t stop me from making it to the NFL.”
Andrews, who is a Type 1 diabetic, shook Adajar’s hand and gave him a hug. It was one of many connections that Andrews made on World Diabetes Day.
Andrews spent the evening at M&T Bank Stadium taking questions from 20 children who use a specialized insulin pump from Tandem Diabetes Care. He was asked about what he eats before games, how many times he pricks his finger during games and whether he was bullied about his condition growing up.
“I got teased for being diabetic, but that didn’t stop just being young,” Andrews said. “There were people who counted me out for being a Type 1 diabetic and didn’t think I was going to be a good football player. So, you don’t listen to that.”
Andrews was the 2017 John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end and a unanimous first-team All-American at Oklahoma. But Andrews believes he slipped into the third round of the 2018 NFL draft because there was concern about his diabetes.
In five NFL seasons, Andrews has become Lamar Jackson’s favorite target and emerged as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Since 2019, he ranks second among tight ends in receptions (271), receiving yards (3,402) and touchdown catches (31).
“He inspires me because I used to think that [it would] be hard to get to like the NFL because [of] diabetes,” Adajar said of Andrews.
For nearly an hour, Andrews stood at the podium where he normally takes questions from reporters. This time, the questions came from curious young fans who are personally motivated every time Andrews leaps for a touchdown catch.
How do you treat low blood sugar during games? “I have Gatorade on the sideline,” Andrews said. “But my go-to growing up was fruit snacks.”
How often do you prick your finger? “At least two to three times every time I come off the field,” he said.
What do you eat for breakfast before games? “It’s always going to be pasta, chicken and fruit,” Andrews replied.
Andrews has become one of the leading ambassadors for diabetics. Young fans at stadiums across the country will sometimes hold up signs with “T1D” on them to signify Type 1 diabetes. Andrews will often approach them before games and offer some encouraging words.
“Growing up, something that really struck me was you heard [from] people [who] have Type 1 diabetes and they’re not super outspoken about it. That kind of bugged me a little bit,” Andrews said. “So that’s extremely important to me to be able [to] talk about that, share my life stories, show kids and families that may [be] struggling with it … that anything is possible. Whatever they may want to do in life, go out and follow those dreams.”