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From practice squad to prime time: Andrei Iosivas ’23 earns his stripes in the NFL

A man running with a football in his hand while someone behind him puts their arms around his waist.
Iosivas became the first Princeton player to score two touchdowns in an NFL game since 1924
Photo courtesy of Andrei Iosivas

After Andrei Iosivas ’23 completed his first season at Princeton, he met with football head coach Bob Surace ’90. 

Iosivas had only featured in practice and J.V. games that season. Despite not taking snaps for the Tigers’ first team, Surace delivered promising news to the Honolulu native.


He told the wide receiver he had NFL potential. 

“That was really eye-opening to me,” Iosivas told the Daily Princetonian. “And that really showed me how they felt about me, and how the program felt about me.”

Four years later, Iosivas caught his second touchdown pass for the Cincinnati Bengals under the setting West Coast sun in front of 71,655 fans at Levi’s Stadium playing against the future NFC champions, the San Francisco 49ers. 

From Oahu to Central Jersey to the Midwest, Iosivas had realized the potential his coaches saw in him in the Orange Bubble, joining only eight Hawaiian high school graduates in the NFL.

“Andrei’s talent was evident early on,” Surace wrote to the ‘Prince.’ 

The Road to Nassau 


The talent Surace noticed was recognized long before Iosivas got to Princeton. Iosivas was a dual-sport athlete who competed in varsity football and track at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Born in Japan to Romanian and Filipino parents, Iosivas moved to the Aloha State after his dad received a job offer during his childhood.

With the guidance of his uncle Tom Hintnaus, the school’s pole vault coach and a former Olympian, he made the varsity track team his first year of high school. His ties to New Jersey started early, as his sprints coach and mentor Gary Satterwhite was an all-state sprinter at Rahway High School, just 45 minutes up Route 1 from Princeton.

“Andrei always had natural ability and he learned through many talks and hard work that the only way to be great at anything was to put in the work,” Satterwhite wrote to the ‘Prince.’

At a practice during his sophomore year of high school, Iosivas was scared to race a stronger teammate because he did not want to lose. That day, Satterwhite had a conversation with the teenager that stuck with him forever.

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“If you think someone is better than you then you have already lost before you get to the starting line,” Satterwhite said. “That conversation stuck with him throughout his career and it showed up during his junior year when he had no fear and he attacked everything thrown at him. To this day we still talk about that conversation.”

Iosivas’s journey was far from easy. Coming out of high school, the 2018 Punahou School grad was a zero-star recruit. His most attractive asset to college coaches was his GPA. Following camps with Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth, Iosivas received offers from the Tigers and the Big Green. 

While Iosivas hoped to stay in the sun at Stanford, he left “The Big Island” to continue his journey in the much colder Northeast with the Princeton Tigers. 

“When he mentioned Princeton I told him that was a great school for him and a great environment to be in,” Satterwhite noted. 

“I did tell him when you get to Jersey, you have to go to a diner and get a pork roll sandwich, that is the Jersey version of Hawaii’s favorite salty meat…. spam!”

Jack of all trades 

At Princeton, Iosivas continued the lifestyle of a dual-sport varsity athlete at the collegiate level, playing football in the fall and competing in track in the spring.

His impact on the track team was felt immediately. During his first year, he won the Heptathlon at the Ivy League Championships. The following season, he defended his title and was named the “Most Outstanding Field Performer” after the meet.

“There is little that Andrei does that would surprise me, especially after he won the Ivy League Championship in the Heptathlon his [first] year with about one month of training in most events,” Surace added. “The adjustment to the NFL can be hard for most rookies, but Andrei is a very cerebral player, and that helped him adapt to professional football early.”

Iosivas had a breakout year in both sports during his junior year. In the fall, Iosivas led the football team with five touchdown catches alongside 41 receptions and over 700 receiving yards. A record-breaking year in the spring saw Iosivas win the heptathlon at the indoor Heps for the third time and finish fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the heptathlon with 6069 points, which broke the Ivy record. Furthermore, his 6.71 in the 60 set a NCAA indoor meet record. 

“Track is what put me on the map lowkey,” Iosivas said. He ran the fastest-ever 60-meter time of any heptathlete ever at the NCAA championships.

In football, Iosivas continued to impress. During his senior season, he led the Ivy League with 66 receptions, 943 receiving yards, and seven touchdown catches, earning himself national recognition and several accolades

“Andrei’s Princeton teammates and coaches both respected and loved him,” Surace told the ‘Prince.’ 

One of the teammates who saw Iosivas’s journey firsthand was Dylan Classi ’23. Classi was a fellow wide receiver who started at Princeton in 2018 alongside Iosivas. Taking a gap year in 2020 to maintain his athletic eligibility, he graduated with Iosivas in 2023.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Classi told the ‘Prince.’ “He’s extremely humble. By the time he had left, he had solidified himself as one of the top receivers to ever play at Princeton.”

Like Surace, Classi pointed out Iosivas’s work ethic as a factor behind his success.

“He came in everyday and worked hard to ensure that he’s in the position he is today. Everything he has right now, he’s worked for. He’s been the same person through it all.”

Iosivas started to garner professional attention after the end of his senior season. Forgoing his senior year with the track team, Iosivas competed in the senior bowl and participated in the NFL Draft combine

“His desire to want to be great was second to none and that’s something that certainly rubbed off on me,” Classi added. 

Iosivas went on to be selected in the sixth round of the draft by the Bengals, becoming the first Princeton receiver to ever be drafted in the NFL. 

“One of the best memories I shared with him would be the day he got drafted,” Classi recalled. “It was amazing just to see one of my best friends dreams come true in person. It truly was a great moment and I was so happy that I got to share such an important part of his life with him.”

He displayed his potential right away. In three preseason games, he totaled 12 receptions, 129 yards, and one touchdown for the Bengals. 

The NFL lifestyle 

“From day-to-day life, it’s pretty much like a regular job,” Iosivas said about his new gig. 

With the Bengals, Mondays are a half-day consisting of lift sessions and meetings with the coaching staff. Tuesdays are the team’s day off to recover and get ready for the week ahead. Wednesday and Thursday feature full-team practices that take up the majority of the day. Lastly, Friday is dedicated to red-zone practice and is the second half-day of the week before travel on Saturday. 

The Bengals charter planes from Delta for games away from Cincinnati.

“I usually just like to watch anime on the flight,” Iosivas said.

Life for the rookies is not always sunshine and rainbows, as many are expected to fulfill their “rookie duties.” Iosivas got a taste of this during the season when he and two other rookies had to cover the check at a team dinner.

“We had a rookie dinner, but it was split between like me, Charlie Jones, and [Shedrick Jackson],” Iosivas said jokingly. “So it wasn’t like a humongous bill because they knew we weren’t first or second-rounders. I didn’t have that much money, you know, like, so they kind of knew to just not make me go broke.”

In addition to learning new plays and route trees, he also had the difficult task of ensuring the candy and snacks were always stocked in the wide receiver room. 

“If [the candy and snacks] weren’t [stocked], they would get pretty mad,” Iosivas noted.

“It’s football, no matter what level you’re playing it at.”

Outside concern for Iosivas centered largely around how a rookie from an FCS Ivy League program would fare in the NFL — a league where nearly 70 percent of its players are athletes from schools in Power Five conferences. This didn’t faze Iosivas. 

“I think the biggest transition is just the playbook, you’re in a new system, you need to learn all these new concepts, these new plays,” Iosivas told the ‘Prince.’ “But once you’re out on the field, it’s not too different. It’s football, no matter what level you’re playing it at.”

He added, “There’s a lot of great athletes on the field… but you just got to go out there and not overthink things and just play the game that you’ve been playing for so long.”

Iosivas silenced those concerns in Week 6 when he caught his first touchdown pass in a home game against the Seattle Seahawks. 

“I think my first touchdown was obviously one of my most memorable moments,” Iosivas added. “It came on my birthday. My family and friends were there to see that, so that was pretty cool.”

At Cincinnati, Iosivas was part of one of the best wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Headlined by pro bowler Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, there was no shortage of receivers Iosivas could learn from during his rookie season.

“When you see them in action, you can understand the movements, you can understand the nuances of their game, how they win, and what they focus on to make them a good receiver,” Iosivas told the ‘Prince.’

A turning point for the Bengals came in Week 11 when franchise quarterback Joe Burrow went down with an injury and was replaced by Jake Browning.

“No one wants to see your franchise quarterback go down, you know, I mean, he’s arguably the best quarterback in football. He’s the only one who can, you know, stack up with Mahomes at the end of the day, in my opinion.” 

As the Bengals lost Burrow for the remainder of the season, Iosivas stepped up to perform. One of the defining moments of the season for Iosivas came in the last week of the regular season in a home game against the Cleveland Browns. With the Bengals out of playoff contention, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor utilized his bench, giving Iosivas a have a high usage role on offense, finishing with five receptions, 36 yards, and two touchdowns.

In the process, Iosivas made history, becoming the first Princeton football player with two touchdowns in a game since Dutch Hendrian Class of 1924 — Hendrian made these touchdowns in the same year he graduated, shortly after the end of World War I.

Looking ahead to his sophomore year in the NFL, Iosivas will have the opportunity to take yet another leap. With starting receiver Tyler Boyd set to depart in free agency, Iosivas will have a chance to start for the Bengals next season. His likely competition will be Charlie Jones and Trenton Irwin, two other receivers for the Bengals. Iosivas recognizes this opportunity and his work in the offseason has been indicative of this.

“I’ve been going three sessions a day for like the past two months now just grinding as hard as I can just to be the best receiver I can be,” Iosivas told the ‘Prince.’

For Iosivas, his rookie season provided him with key lessons. 

“Just trust yourself. I would say the biggest thing about being in the NFL is just your you know, trusting yourself trusting the work that you’ve put in.”

With a healthy Burrow and Chase and Higgins set to be one of the most dangerous wide receiver duos in the league once more, Iosivas and the Bengals hope to be back to competing for the Lombardi Trophy in the 2024-25 season.

“Andrei is a winner,” Surace added. “He will be successful in whatever role he is asked to perform. I’m excited to see him help another team in Orange and Black win a championship.”

“I’m coming for it all this year,” Iosivas said excitedly. 

“The goal for every season is to win a Super Bowl. And, you know, whatever role I’m in, I’m going to do my very best to make sure that we get there.”

Hayk Yengibaryan is an associate Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

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