April 11, 2012

Q&A with Andre Kendrick

Andre Kendrick was a key player on Tech's 1999 team that went to the National Championship game. The former tailback recently discussed nearly attending the University of Florida, kick returning, and his relationship with Shyrone Stith in this week's Q&A.

HH: We always start these Q&A's off talking about recruiting. What was your process like, when did Virginia Tech start get in touch with, and what ultimately made you pick the Hokies? If you hadn't decided on Virginia Tech, where would you have gone?

Kendrick: The process was fun. I went to a Tech camp going into my senior year and played quarterback in the a.m. and defensive back in the evening and during the defense part of practice I remember intercepting everything thrown my way. Coach Foster and I became really close that week. Tech started to call but I always wanted to go to Notre Dame and then Florida came into the picture. I was playing basketball and had visits set up around my basketball schedule to go to Tech, Florida, Notre Dame, Pitt, and Maryland. I had told Florida I was coming there but Bob Pruitt left for Marshall so that crossed them out and then the blizzard of 96 came and all my visits except Tech was snowed out and Ricky Bustle sold me on going to Tech!

HH: You really didn't become a big contributor for the Hokies until your redshirt junior season, the 1999 run. During those first three seasons, what were the big things Billy Hite was teaching you and making sure you understood? If there was one thing Hite harped on the most, what would it be?

Kendrick: Coach Hite became more like a Father to me during those times. He always made sure that we understood the game and why we do the thing we do the way that we do them. He used to give me advice on real life things like having a good credit score and being a good person. But he always emphasized being ready when your time came.

HH: In 1999, you were the kick returner and split time at tailback with Shyrone Stith. What was your relationship like with Stith and how did you handle basically not being the full-time ball carrier?

Kendrick: Shy and I had a great relationship. We both wanted each other to do well and we made sure that we both were ready! We are the 5-footers and we set out to be the best tandem in the country, and if I'm not mistaken I think we led the nation in rushing or at least in the top five. I knew my role on the team, which was to be a change of pace back and I got just as many plays as he did. It was all about who was hot that game. Even though I did not start, I perfected my role and showed that I could carry the load if needed.

HH: I saw an interview from a couple years ago when you stated that you remember everything from the National Championship game. What are some of the things that stick out in your mind when you think about that trip? How often do you think about that game?

Kendrick: Just the pure excitement of it all. We should have won that game and I always think about what if I could have got that fumble in our endzone. People remind me all the time of the game I had but it still hurts to know that we were a play here or a play there away from being National Champs.

HH: In 2000, ya'll are rolling and likely heading back to the National Championship if Michael Vick doesn't hurt his ankle. How often do you think about that and do you think the 2000 team could have pulled it off?

Kendrick: Not too often but there is no doubt in our mind that if we had a healthy Mike Vick that year we win it hands down. We were the best team in the country two years in a row and did not win it.

HH: For running backs, it's fairly simply to pick up on what he's seeing as he approaches the line of scrimmage. Can you explain what you are looking for as you begin a kick return as far as picking the right hole and setting up your blocks the right way?

Kendrick: As a returner you have to trust your blockers and find a seam and bust it wide open. It is different because the only responsibility for the coverage team is to get to you, on defense they have other reads and must find the ball, then attack.

HH: Since you left Tech, the Hokies have churned out terrific running backs from Lee Suggs to Kevin Jones to Darren Evans to Ryan Williams and now David Wilson. How much of that success do you attribute to Billy Hite's coaching ability? Your former teammate Shane Beamer is now the running backs coach, what do you think about that?

Kendrick: Simple, Coach Hite takes average backs and makes them good, good backs and makes them great, and great backs he makes unstoppable. In a nut shell, Shane is a great guy and he has been around the system all his life, so the transition does make sense and I think he will be a great coach.

HH: David Wilson recently announced he was declaring for the NFL draft. Do you think he will be a good NFL running back?

Kendrick: That kid has the intangibles to make an immediate impact. Not only will he be good, I think he will be great.

HH: Do you ever get back up to Blacksburg or follow the Hokies? If so, what do you think about how far the program has come since that 1999 run? Do you think the Hokies have another National Championship run in them?

Kendrick: I always will follow the Hokies, I am a Hokie for life but the program has done well and I think that we might be one player, one play, one call away from another run.

HH: Finally, what are you doing nowadays? Do you or did you ever have any aspirations to be a coach?

Kendrick: Well, I am the President of the Central Virginia Elite Youth sports and our football teams just came in second and third in the Eastern Conference National AAU Championships. I coached at a middle school and high school when I came home but these kids are my calling in life.

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