Erin Henderson

Erin Henderson and his 2-year-old son learn about big cats during a visit to National Geographic's D.C. offices. (Photo courtesy of National Geographic / April 5, 2013)

Former Maryland standout Erin Henderson presented a $5,000 check to National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative yesterday in Washington.

Henderson, an Aberdeen grad and Minnesota Vikings linebacker, also agreed to donate an undisclosed sum of money to BCI for every regular-season sack he makes. He calls “Sacks for Cats” his way of raising awareness of the decline of lions, tigers, cheetahs and other big cat species.  

“The numbers [of big cats remaining in the wild] are frightening,” said Henderson, who was inspired to get involved after seeing a public service announcement about big cats during Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week. “When my 2-year-old son is older, I don’t want to talk to him about lions the way we now talk about dinosaurs. It is important for all of us to do something now, before it is too late.”

National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, which was launched in 2009, has funded 34 grants in 17 countries to halt the decline of big cats. The “Cause an Uproar” campaign focuses on on-the-ground conservation projects, education and a global public awareness campaign.

Henderson finished his Maryland career with 247 total tackles (113 solo), 17.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and four pass breakups. He redshirted as a freshman in 2004, tore his ACL as a redshirt freshman in 2005, was a second-team All-ACC performer in 2006 and a first-team all-conference selection in 2007. He has spent all five of his NFL seasons with the Vikings, compiling 176 tackles (118 solo) and 4.5 sacks.