PEMBROKE — When Chuck Oxendine looks at a weight room, he doesn’t simply see bars, weights and belts. He sees it as a personal test.
“When you power, clean and squat, it’s not about who is strongest, it’s about who wants it more,” Oxendine said. “Don’t hurt yourself, don’t strain a muscle or something, but how far are you going to go before you quit? That was my thing, I always liked pushing myself.”
As a two-year captain of the Purnell Swett football team, it was a test that he got his teammates to buy into as he built himself into one of the top defensive players in both the county and the Southeastern Conference.
Oxendine finished the year with 120 tackles, 80 solo, despite a shoulder injury and also pushed himself in the classroom, where he’ll graduate with a 3.89 grade point average.
His willingness to push himself academically and athletically were among the reasons he was chosen as April’s Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Month.
The program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
For Oxendine, the overall goal is football, a sport he discovered in kindergarten while watching his brother play.
“One day the ball just happened to come to me and I just started running with it,” Oxendine said. “Nobody could ever catch me and coach started letting me practice with them.”
He continued with it, working his way through the flag ranks to his current role. He’ll continue his career next season at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
At the root of it all is a level of accountability, with Oxendine holding himself to a set of standards.
His parents wouldn’t let him play sports unless his grades were good, so he never let a bad grade keep him from practice. When he was forced to choose between offense and defense, he chose the latter so that he could help control the score. When he was at practice or in the weight room, he tried to set the standard.
He didn’t even let a torn labrum in his right shoulder stop him.
Oxendine suffered the injury in the fourth quarter against Richmond and then played the final three games of the season after that. He only missed one day of practice and played the rest of the season with limited motion, though it never bothered him to hit.
“I always had a thing that I’m not going to come out of the game unless it’s life or death,” Oxendine said. “I’ll tear up my body, I’ll do what I have to do to win. I have teammates out there and I knew they wouldn’t give up on me, so I played with it.”
The downside to his injury was missing out on the final season of his prep wrestling career. He underwent surgery in January, this month marking his return to the weight room.
Though football was his primary motivation for his grades, he pushed himself for more at the advice of his father.
“(He told me) everybody can’t be doctors or lawyers. Somebody has to be a janitor, somebody has to work at McDonalds,” he said. “He’s always asked me, ‘Which one you want to be?’”
Early in high school Oxendine discovered medical classes, which he’s continued with through his senior year. With the knowledge that medical schools required strong grade point averages, he focused on the classroom. He also has gotten involved with Beta Club and National Honor Society, among other clubs.
The medical studies and football will intersect at UNCP. He plans to study nursing and will also play for the football team. He’s the first person in his family to play college athletics.
Like any football player, he’d love to make the sport a career but knows another career plan will at least give him another option.
“That gives me a chance to carry on my dreams of one day making it big,” Oxendine said. “I’m going to live on football until I can’t go anymore. At least I have my medical pathway to fall back on.”