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By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001
TAMPA -- Andra Hoston's grandmother is in and out of the hospital. His grandfather is having his knees replaced. His mother, who is separated from his father, suffers from arthritis. His older brother uses a wheelchair.
But it was not until he learned a heart problem put his cousin into intensive care that the Hillsborough senior realized how much he was needed at home.
"When I found that out, that really got me to thinking," he said.
The closer Hoston's thoughts turned to his family, the further they turned from Auburn.
Without prompting from his family, Hoston withdrew his oral commitment in favor of Central Florida. Not even his mother knew of the decision until Tuesday afternoon.
"He doesn't want to be away from home and have something go wrong," Lois Hoston said.
Hoston, a Class 5A all-state linebacker, committed to Auburn two weeks ago. He said the only problem was the seven or eight hours it took him to drive home. UCF, in Orlando, is a 70-minute drive.
"That's big-time football (at Auburn)," Hoston said. "I really loved the campus and was looking forward to coming up there. But sometimes, you've got to look at things other than yourself."
Hoston's mother said Andra, 18, and his younger brothers, Seneca Howard, 16, and Andrew Howard, 13, do their own laundry and cleaning and help take care of their older brother, Brian.
Brian, 27, sustained a brain injury when he was assaulted six years ago and must be tube fed. Andra and his brothers help their mother bathe, feed and lift their brother out of his wheelchair.
Andra, who also works four nights a week as a telemarketer, said he accepts the responsibility.
"My family is pretty much the reason I'm where I'm at today," he said. "They've got a lot to do with my success. I feed from seeing every last one of them in the stands when I'm playing a game."
Hoston's decision to play closer to home will allow Brian to see his games. A doctor discouraged Brian, who also suffers from asthma, pneumonia and sickle cell anemia, from making the trip to Auburn.
Hoston had 138 tackles, including 86 solo stops, while helping Hillsborough to the second round of the playoffs last season. He said South Florida asked him to visit this weekend.
Hoston's teammate, running back Keith Williams, also committed to Central Florida. Hoston hopes to follow former UCF quarterback Daunte Culpepper's path to the NFL so he can one day support his family, which depends on disability payments.
"I can make my mark at UCF," he told his mother. "The same kind of thing that can happen at Auburn can happen at UCF."
EAGLE TO UF: Florida accepted Brandon return specialist Brian Burgman as a walk-on. He averaged 37.3 yards per kickoff return last season.