Andre Kendrick averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the 1999 season. He found the goal line 9 times in what many would consider the best ever Hokie campaign. He put a lot on the field during his tenure as a Virginia Tech running back, but still feels guilty on nitdelivering the ultimate hardware to Blacksburg. He played high school football for E.C. Glass in Lynchburg. I had the privilege to chat with Andre on the past, present, and future of Virginia Tech football. "The years I was there we were one play here, one play away there. Along comes Michael Vick. We had outstanding special teams, an outstanding defense, an outstanding running game. When we add that weapon, he took so much pressure off everyone else." He talked about the pain of losing the championship game against Florida State. "We knew we could be special that year and unfortunately we didn't get it done."
I disagreed with Andre by saying that they did get it done. His 1999 team won the Big East championship, and took Virginia Tech to the biggest stage in all of college football. His team was arguably the best in Hokie history. Andre put up his best game against Pittsburgh that year. He ran for 162 yards on only 16 carries. "They were keying on Shyrone Stith. Coach gave me the green light and gave me touches." Andre had a monster game, including a 59 yard monster carry. Tech left Pitt with a 30-17 victory, but another game stood out to Kendrick that magical season. The West Virginia game in 1999, stands out to many of the Hokies of that generation. I asked Andre if he had full confidence in Shayne Graham as he trotted out to attempt the game winner.
"You're going to get a little different answer from me than the other guys on that team. I think back to high school when we were pounding Pulaski County 35-0. Shayne Graham came in and kicked a 54 yard field goal. Our fans (E.C. Glass) stood up and cheered that. I knew if he had his chance he would be clutch."
It would definitely be the kick heard around the country, or at least two states. Like many Hokie fans, Andre was watching this past season with high expectations. He wouldn't go as far to say he was disappointed, but talking with him, he seemed frustrated. "Its kind of hard to watch as a former Hokie, and not be number one all the time. A lot of games I started watching and couldn't finish. We had a lot of injuries, and I would not consider the season unsuccessful. We kept the bowl streak alive. It's just not acceptable as Hokies, let's put it that way."
Andre worries about coach Frank Beamer's health. "The health of Coach Beamer, and not being in that main leadership role had a lot to do with it. Once you have other people making decisions, you get away from that identity." Identity seems to be a common chord with players from Kendrick's era. Special teams, defense, and a strong running game are the hallmark. "If its not broke don't fix it." When we talked recruiting and the current state of affairs, Andre offered this perspective:
"We kind of got a little Hollywood."
I have written before on the frills, including the ever expanding uniform choices. Andre and I saw eye to eye on this issue. "The uniform thing is fine and dandy, it's a recruiting tool, but some of the offense we've seen in the past is not Hokie football. I like the three star athelete. Give me somebody nobody wants. John Engelberger, and those type guys." Engleberger began his career in Blacksburg as a walk-on. After 9 solid seasons in the N.F.L., its safe to say he was a keeper. Kendrick talked about the recent season by offering this,"I'm just one of those guys who thinks Tech has high standards. 6-6, a bowl game, that's fine, but 11-1, 11-0, that's what we'd rather have. I was having a debate with a U.V.A. fan. He said it's pretty bad our only claim to fame is beating our in state rival. I got him back by saying, "What's that say about ya'll?"" It raises an interesting point. Have our standards dropped? Is a big win beating a miserable Virginia team? I'd like to think that we are on the incline as a program, rather than the decline. Only time and wins will bear that out. I'm just glad we have guys like Andre Kendrick around to keep us mindful of what winning really is.