In his bones, Mark Andrews is still a wide receiver in a tight end's body.
He was a wide receiver at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was a wide receiver when he showed up on campus at Oklahoma.
Andrews converted early in his college career to see the field faster, and dedicated himself to the position. He's now one of the NFL's top tight ends, joining elite company with the San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle and Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce.
After Andrews' two-touchdown performance to start the season, his MVP quarterback said, "Man, that guy's Top 2, and he's not 2."
But it's not just that Andrews, who went to the Pro Bowl after his second season, has become one of the league's top tight ends. In his third year, he's now dominating at wide receiver, too.
Andrews was on the field for 71 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps in the season-opener against the Cleveland Browns, a sizeable jump from last year's average in the low 40s. Part of the extra usage was at wide receiver, where he split out for 21 snaps in the slot and five as an outside receiver.
Andrews' one-handed grab for the Ravens' first touchdown of the season is something you'd expect to see from Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., not a 256-pound tight end. Andrews' second touchdown catch came after lining up in the slot, when he deftly found an opening in the Browns' zone coverage.
"I love being outside," Andrews said. "It's something I'm really comfortable with. It's starting to grow in this offense, me being outside more. I just think it creates more mismatches, defenses having to game-plan for that. [Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman] has done a great job of moving around and hiding some stuff."
Andrews just has a knack for getting open, whether it be versus man coverage or zone. This summer, as he was preparing for an increased role after the trade of fellow tight end Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons, Andrews talked about how he does it.
"I grew up playing outside receiver. I think as a big guy, being able to have that feel for the game and to learn things as my base layer was great for me. Just being able to feel myself in space and feel where to go," Andrews said.
"But I think a lot of it is being able to feel things, and sometimes that can't be learned. … A lot of getting open is deception – making a guy believe one thing and doing the other. And so, I think that's one of the best things that I do."
Andrews also prepared his body for a larger role. He said he did more running this offseason, improving his endurance. Andrews became Jackson's go-to target last year. He led Baltimore in targets (98), receptions (64), receiving yards (852) and touchdowns (10).
Even though the Ravens' wide receivers could have an increased role this season, Andrews is ready to take on more.
"In the back of my head, I knew that my role was going to grow. Third year being a tight end, it kind of naturally happens that way," he said. "My body feels great. I felt great out there conditioning wise. I'm ready for it. I'm ready for the task. The more the better for me."
University of Nevada Head Coach Jay Novell III is the coach that first suggested to Andrews that he should switch to tight end. He saw that Andrews had the body and work ethic to pull it off.
"Once I flipped my brain and decided I wanted to be a tight end and really invested into it, that's when things started to click," Andrews said. "It's not a position where you can go out there and just kind of run around. It's a tough position; it's a unique position. But for me it fits really well."
But how good of an NFL wide receiver would he be?
"I don't know. Probably pretty good," Andrews said with a smile.
"It's definitely my bread and butter being able to get open and beat man, find a zone. I think I could do it, but I love being able to play tight end. I love being able to be versatile and maybe hide myself blocking and go out for a pass. That's the beauty of tight end is you never know what they're going to do or where they're going to be. It's a beautiful position."