By Matt Zenitz
For Erin Henderson, it was just time to move on.
While it was a difficult decision to go pro, it was one that Henderson made about midway through the University of Maryland's season. The 6-foot-3, 236-pound linebacker declared for the NFL Draft and was given a third-round grade by the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
In deciding whether to take his game to the next level, Henderson sought the counsel of his family as well as several former Terrapins, including Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman and D'Qwell Jackson, who were all in agreement that it was time to move on.
Linebacker Erin Henderson recorded 247 career tackles in only two seasons with the Terrapins.
"After playing the first four or five games of the season and going out there playing as well as I did, I knew I was ready to take the next step," Henderson said. "I started to feel like everything was clicking, everything was making sense out there, mentally and physically. I was able to do a lot of different things, and I really felt confident in my game and there really wasn't much that I couldn't do."
Henderson, who led Maryland with 133 tackles, had to weigh several factors before making his final decision, including the advice of his head coach, Ralph Friedgen.
"Dealing with college and all the things that come along with the college life, it can really, really wear down on you and become tough on you mentally," Henderson said. "It was really tough for me to leave because I really enjoyed my time at the university. I really enjoyed playing there, and I really enjoyed the guys.
"The biggest thing for me was just being around my teammates; I really love those guys and enjoyed spending time with them. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with, to leave them. Talking to Coach [Ralph] Friedgen, his biggest thing was just make sure you make the right decision because I could miss out on a lot of money if I don't go in the first round or early like people are telling me, and there's no turning back."
Henderson only missed one game last season but has battled injuries throughout his college career, including ones to his knee, shoulder, back, thumb and cornea last season. He also had a torn anterior cruciate ligament during fall camp of his red-shirt freshman season in 2005. However, the wear and tear of injuries or fear of getting hurt had no impact on Henderson's decision to go pro.
"That's all stuff that comes along with the game," Henderson said. "I never really thought about it like that, and I never really wanted to because my [philosophy] has always been if you're thinking about injuries, you're going to get injured. Injuries are a part of the game, they're always going to happen, and you can't really avoid them. I really didn't let that affect me. I wanted it to be about me feeling like it was time to go; I didn't want it to be about I'm scared I'm going to get hurt if I come back next year."
As he prepares for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis that begins this week, Henderson has been training at Parisi Speed School in New Jersey, along with former Maryland teammate Dre Moore, Rutgers running back Ray Rice and several other NFL hopefuls.
Henderson will be the first to say he doesn't have the prototypical athleticism that will catch the eyes of NFL scouts, but he believes he ranks among the top linebackers in the class and feels the Combine will be an opportunity for him to showcase his ability.
"I think I stack up with the best of them," he said. "I believe I do a great job of finding the ball, have good instincts and I think once I get to the ball, I know how to finish.
"The Combine's huge for everybody but especially someone in my position [as an underclassman] because I've had one less year for [scouts] to look at me, so I think it will kind of be a coming-out party for me when I get a chance to get out there at the Combine in Indianapolis."
With the progress he has been making, Henderson expects to run a low 4.6 or high 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and to get somewhere between 23 and 25 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Regardless of what he does at the Combine, Henderson's agent, Brian Mackler, thinks the Aberdeen native's play will ultimately do the talking.
"Erin's film will speak for itself, just like it did for D'Qwell Jackson and David Harris, and film speaks louder than any of the combines," Mackler said.
For more analysis of the NFL Combine and draft from Matt Zenitz, check out the "Football 101" blog on pressboxonline.com.
Issue 3.8: February 21, 2008