Bob Mayo, a former football and basketball coach at Babylon High School, did not need much prompting when asked his memories of Andrew Dees.
"He was a wonderful kid and human being. He believed in us as coaches," Mayo said of Dees, a former football and basketball standout at the school and a 1987 graduate.
"He bought into what we were teaching. He is probably the number one kid that I had in 33 years of coaching."
Dees went on to play football in college at Syracuse as a tight end and offensive lineman and then played for Cincinnati in the National Football League in 1992 and with Seattle in the NFL the following season.
A long-time college assistant coach, Dees is now in his first season as the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach at the University of Massachusetts. But he still has fond memories of his time at Babylon High and how his coaches helped shape his career.
"The people," said Dees, when asked what stands out about his time at the school. "It was a great place to be."
Mayo, now a teacher at Newfield in Selden, was called a "father figure" by Dees. The Babylon native also singled out former coaches such as Hans Wiederkehr, who still teaches at Babylon High; former basketball coach Greg Walsh; and one-time Babylon High football and hoop coach Tom Dinova for shaping his career.
"Hans is the reason that I went to Syracuse," Dees told Patch. Dees was strongly looking into attending college at Clemson in South Carolina but took the advice of Wiederkehr, who had also played at Syracuse.
"It was very comfortable to me. I felt at ease at Syracuse," said Dees, who coached at Temple, Buffalo, Stony Brook and Wagner before joining the UMass staff earlier this year.
Wiederkehr told Patch of Dees: "The big thing about Dees is he really cared about what he did on the field. In basketball he was so big and could move the ball." Wiederkehr said Syracuse offered him a scholarship after watching him play just one game of basketball in high school.
Dees, who attended Babylon Junior and Senior High School, has not lost touch with his hometown. As a college recruiter his coverage area in the past has included Long Island and he gets back to Babylon about once a year. His sister still lives in town and her son, Adrian Sullivan, is a senior who plays football and basketball at the school.
Dees, 41, was excited about the chance to be on the staff at UMass, which will join the Mid-American Conference next season after playing in the Division I-AA Colonial Athletic Association.
"It is an exciting time to be at UMass. We are ready to go to Division I," he said. "This place has won championships. This place has a great tradition."
Kevin Morris, the head coach at UMass, was happy to have Dees join his staff.
"Andrew and I worked together at Stony Brook," Morris said. "I am excited about the wealth of football knowledge, energy and recruiting expertise he brings to the staff."
And that expertise was nurtured in Babylon.
"I think I am very good with the players. I know football. I know what it is supposed to look like. I know what it is like to be recruited," he said. And that experience, he noted, was shaped at Babylon.