Fully healed from a toe injury that ended his 2015 season after only eight games, jack-of-all trades running back Branden Oliver is back for his third season with the Chargers.
One of the fun stories of the 2014 NFL season was the emergence of Oliver, an undrafted rookie from the University of Buffalo. Compactly built at 5-foot-8 and wearing No. 43 with an exciting running style, Oliver had fans waxing nostalgic about the similarities to former Chargers running back Darren Sproles.
Oliver ended 2014 as the Chargers’ leading rusher. Along the way, he delivered a couple of memorable performances, twice being named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week. Oliver earned his first honor after a 31-0 win over the New York Jets. During the victory, he became the first Charger with a 50-yard catch and a 50-yard run in the same game since Lionel “Little Train” James in 1985, and he became the NFL’s first rookie to do so since Clinton Portis in 2002. New York came into the game with the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 63.3 yards per game and Oliver gouged them for 114 yards. And his 6.0 yards-per-carry average was double the 3.0 average the Jets had allowed coming into the contest. A week after his showing against New York, Oliver earned his second Pepsi award after rushing for 101 yards in Oakland and scoring the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter of a 31-28 victory over the Raiders.
These were impressive accomplishments for a young player who wasn’t even drafted in May’s NFL Draft, despite leaving Buffalo as the school’s all-time leading rusher. After a tryout in Indianapolis, Oliver ended up signing with the Chargers. He made the opening day roster after an impressive preseason in which he rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on just 35 carries for a 4.6-yard per carry average. Oliver really caught the coaches’ attention during the Bolts’ preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys when he rushed seven times for 64 yards and had a 16-yard touchdown run and a 27-yard run during the game.
After wrapping up his rookie season, Oliver returned to the University of Buffalo and completed the last two classes he needed to earn his degree in sociology. He plans to use his education and life experience to help others by building orphanages and homeless shelters.
One of Oliver’s closest friends is Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack. The two were teammates and roommates at Buffalo. Oliver’s cousin is former NFL wide receiver Roscoe Parrish.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Signed with Chargers May 21, 2014.
2015: Sept. 13 vs. Detroit, ignited go-ahead touchdown drive with 17-yard catch on final play of third quarter...injured toe Nov. 1 at Baltimore...placed on season-ending “Reserve-Injured” Nov. 3.
2014: Inactive Games 1-2...NFL debut Sept. 21 at Buffalo...Pepsi NFL Rookie of Week after rushing for 114 yards and scoring two touchdowns in 31-0 victory over New York Jets Oct. 5...first touchdown on 15-yard run for 21-0 lead...set up TD with 50-yard catch and run on 3rd-and-17...longest reception by Chargers running back since Darren Sproles (57-yard touchdown) in 2010...later in game, 52-yard run set up second score, nine-yard touchdown catch...68 receiving yards vs. Jets to finish game with 182 yards from scrimmage, most in game by Chargers running back since LaDainian Tomlinson (197) against Kansas City in 2007...Pepsi NFL Rookie of Week after making first career start and rushing for 101 yards while scoring game-winning touchdown on one-yard leap over pile with 1:56 remaining in fourth quarter of 31-28 win Oct. 12 at Oakland…first Chargers rookie with consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Tomlinson in 2001...on game-winning drive, carried ball on final four plays for 29 yards, including runs of 12 and 10 yards.
COLLEGE: First-team All-MAC as sophomore in 2011 and senior in 2013...team captain as senior...school’s all-time leader with 4,049 career rush yards...season-record 1,535 rush yards in 2013...also set school mark for 100-yard games (20)...second in school annals with 33 touchdowns...three-time MAC East Offensive Player of Week in 2013 following wins over Eastern Michigan, Kent State and Ohio...latter award followed career-high 249-yard performance vs. Bobcats...two-time MAC East Offensive Player of Week as sophomore in 2011, along with selection as Running Back Performer of Week by College Football Performance Awards after 235-yard effort vs. Akron...redshirted in 2009...played at Buffalo from 2010-13...sociology major.
PERSONAL: Born in Miami, Florida...two-year team captain at Southridge High School in Miami....invited to play in North Florida vs. South Florida All-Star Classic and Dade vs. Broward All-Star Game.