During the mid-nineties, Ken Oxendine was a force for the Hokies’ ground game.
He didn’t have blazing speed or incredible moves, but Ken Oxendine got the job done. The 6’1″, 220-pounder from Chester, Va. paired with Dwayne Thomas to form one of Tech’s most consistent runing back tandems of the Frank Beamer era.
In 1995 Ivan Maisel — then a writer for The Sporting News — called the duo, “…the best 1-2 tailback combination in the country. One of the few players anywhere who could prevent sophomore Ken Oxendine from starting is senior Dwayne Thomas.”
Oxendine ran a 4.56 40-yard dash in the spring of 1995, but when you pop on his highlight reel you can’t really tell.
He had deceptive speed and considerable power in his long frame. In that 1995 season, both he and Thomas underwhelmed statistically with Dwayne posting 673 yards and Ox grinding out 593. Still, it was good enough coupled with fullbacks Brian Edmonds and Marcus Parker to lead the Hokies to the 1995 Sugar Bowl.
An upset win over Texas set the stage for a big season in 1996, and with the graduation of Thomas, Oxendine was Tech’s primary back.
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He would split time with freshman Shyrone Stith and both Parker and Edmonds continued to get plenty of carries. None the less, Oxendine acquitted himself well.
He ran for 890 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading the Hokies to the Orange Bowl against Nebraska. Oxendine led the Big East in yards per carry (5.9) and rushing touchdowns. He also finished second in scoring accounting for 78 points.
Oxendine once again split carries during his senior season, this time with Clemson transfer Lamont Pegues added to the mix. Ox finished with 912 yards and eight touchdowns, but his carries skyrocketed from 150 to 237. That crashed his yards per carry to just 3.8 and the Hokies struggled to a 7-5 overall record.
That made for a mixed bag for Oxendine’s final campaign at Tech, but his career numbers were strong. He ran 526 times for 2,660 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also caught 38 passes for 289 yards, good for 7.6 yards per catch.
His rushing yardage still ranks ninth all-time at Virginia Tech, just two spots and 13 yards behind Dwayne Thomas.
Oxendine parlayed his standout career into an NFL Draft selection. He was picked in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
He would play just two seasons and 21 games in the NFL. During his rookie year, Oxendine had just 18 carries or 50 yards behind Pro-Bowler Jamal Anderson. That resulted in a Super Bowl appearance for Atlanta — though the Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos won 34-17.
That workload would increase significantly in 1999 when Anderson missed virtually the entire season. Oxendine split time with Texas Tech product Byron Hanspard and started nine games for the Falcons. He finished with 452 yards on 141 carries with just one touchdown.
In 2001, Oxendine joined the Los Angeles Xtreme for the only season of the XFL. He saw limited action and had 34 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 53 yards. On the bright side, The Xtreme did win the XFL championship.
Since his playing days, Oxendine has gone into education putting on football camps among other pursuits. In 2012, he married his wife Mei-Ling who was the June 2011 Playmate of the month. They now have two children.
While Tech fans might not necessarily throw the Ox out first among great Hokie backs, he’s near the top. He was vital to the mid-nineties success that put the Hokies in the national conversation and set the table for the tremendous rise of the late-nineties and early 2000s.
You can follow Ken on Twitter @kenoxendine.