By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Kevin Koken was the leader of the strong offensive line on West Virginia University’s undefeated 1988 football team.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Youngstown, Ohio, native was the center, and he must rank among the school’s all-time best at that position. His leadership helped the Mountaineers to their 11-0 regular season record and runner-up finish to Notre Dame for the national championship that year.
Koken, who now lives in the Pittsburgh area, is in his 24th year as an employee with Federal Express. He lettered at WVU in 1985-86-87-88.
“It was great playing football for coach Don Nehlen,” Koken recalled in a recent interview. “He was a good coach, and he got the most out of his players.
“Everyone respected the Hall of Famer and he had a tremendous amount of respect for the officials and for his players. He had class about him. He was special.”
Koken, now a resident of Cranberry, Pa., township, said he was in Morgantown recently with his children for a basketball tournament. He also attends some WVU football and basketball games now that he is closer to his alma mater.
Asked weather he thinks about the 34-21 loss to Notre Dame in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl, he replied, “Probably once a week, especially when people ask me when and where I played football in college.”
One may recall that WVU quarterback Major Harris injured his shoulder on the third offensive play of that game and played hurt most of the way.
Koken, who loved playing center, was a graduate of Youngstown’s Cardinal-Mooney High. He was redshirted as a freshman at WVU, then played on teams that posted 7-3-1, 4-7, 6-6, and 11-1 records.
Besides the Notre Dame bowl battle, the Maryland game of 1988 comes to mind for Koken.
“We were behind the first quarter and also at halftime,” he remembers. “We wound up winning by 55-24.
“We put in two tight ends and started running the ball more,” Koken remembers.
Other big wins in that perfect season included Pitt 31-10, Penn State 51-30, Virginia Tech 22-10 and Boston College 59-19.
“The Penn State game was Major’s to remember,” Koken said. “He outfoxed everyone on the field and scored himself on a 25-yard option play.”
Here’s what coach Nehlen had to say in his book, West Virginia Tales from the Sideline:
“Kevin Koken was the leader of the 1988 offensive line. That line stuck together and took its lumps as sophomores, but they came together as juniors and had a great year as seniors.
“Kevin was the catalyst for it all — just a wonderful young guy ... He had a way of bringing people together.”
Koken, who has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. for Fed Ex, has been married for 15 years to the former Jennifer Moffitt.
They have three children. Koken, a captain of the great 1988 team, is a member of the WVU all-time team for the 1980-89 period.