---- — ANDOVER — Take one look at Ben Hartford and it’s obvious he can carry a heavy load.
The muscular 6-3, 235-pound Andover High senior more than pulls his weight on the gridiron and in the classroom.
The Eagle-Tribune ran a big picture of him flexing his bulging biceps after a win last year. Hartford bench presses 315 pounds and dead lifts 435 pounds.
The quad-captain is no weakling academically, either. He’s being recruited by top Division 3 academic schools like Colby, Middlebury and Bates and also has heard from Ivy League schools like Penn and Brown.
“My parents and everyone in the family has gone to very good colleges,” explained Hartford. “I’m held to a higher standard and it has paid off. I tell myself it’s my senior year and I can’t slack off. It will suck now but I won’t regret it when I’m at a good college and when I have a good job.”
Hartford, who started both ways last year, is concentrating on defense this fall. Playing at a high level in such a physical sport can take its toll.
“Practice some nights starts at 5:30 p.m.,” said Hartford, a defensive tackle. “I’ll get home at 8:30 or 9 p.m. and study 2-3 hours and go to bed at midnight or 1 a.m. You feel it most when you are starting your homework or just getting up. You’re tired and exhausted. Then you have to do it all over again.”
The results are on the report card. Last year he earned three A’s, two A-minuses, a B-plus and three B’s while taking a challenging work load. He scored a 28 on his ACT, the equivalent of a 1,260 on the two-tier SAT.
In the season-opening overtime win against North Andover, Hartford was credited with 11 tackles and a blocked punt. His sack on a 2-point conversion attempt in OT helped secure the win. In a tight loss to BC High, he was credited with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Golden Warrior coach E.J. Perry said, “He has had a tremendous year. He’s a giant on the gridiron. He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s a vocal leader and a role model.”
Hartford sticks out on the field and in the family photo albums. Nobody else in his immediate family is particularly big. His father is 5-8 and his eighth grade brother is 5-5. But, he points out, he has a 6-3, 300-pound uncle who played at Boston University.
Hartford, who plays club rugby in the spring, tries to be a role model beyond the field, too. He is a chairman in the Warrior Way program, which mentors Andover elementary and middle school students.
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.