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Another Henderson ready to make name for himself


Erin Henderson is bigger, stronger, as fast as, and more of a vocal leader than his brother ever was at this age.

But the Aberdeen junior quarterback and linebacker has yet to escape his sibling's shadow.

"As a freshman, he'd come home to me from practice and say, 'Dad, why do they have to call me E.J. and Little E,' " said Eric Henderson of his son, Erin, whose older brother, E.J., is a standout linebacker at the University of Maryland. "He's riding the coattails, picks E.J.'s brain a little bit. But for the most part, he's out to prove that he's Erin Henderson, not E.J."

Erin Henderson stands 6 feet 4, weighs 210 pounds, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds and bench-presses more than 300 pounds.

"Physically, he's really strong for his age and already in the weight room harder than I was," said E.J. Henderson, last season's Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.

"He's such an outspoken leader - the total opposite of me. He'll tell somebody what to do and how to do it. As a quarterback, he has a great arm and throws the ball well. Erin might not be the fastest person in the world, but he moves well, agility-wise."

E.J. Henderson twice earned All-Metro honors and led the Eagles to at least a share of the Harford County title during each of his four seasons as a starter through 1997.

Those glory days will be on Erin Henderson's mind as he leads the Eagles (2-0) into their league opener tonight against C. Milton Wright.

"People say things like, 'Football stinks at Aberdeen,' " said Erin Henderson, whose Eagles have gone 9-13 during his tenure. "Nobody respects us. I want to bring the buzz back around for football like it was when E.J. was here."

Third-year coach Joe Harbert first noticed Henderson's leadership qualities during his freshman year, when he replaced the starting quarterback in the fourth quarter, engineered a long drive and scored the winning touchdown against previously undefeated Joppatowne.

"His poise was amazing," Harbert said of Henderson, who started the final two games of his freshman season. "I remember thinking, 'Wow, this kid is something special in the making.' "

After passing for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns last fall, an ankle injury forced Henderson to the sideline for the last six games. This season, he has thrived at two of the most mentally and physically demanding positions. At middle linebacker, his 13 tackles rank second in the league. As quarterback, Henderson is 7-for-11 for 234 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for two scores.

Henderson has aspired to be a college quarterback since throwing three touchdowns as an 11-year-old in an Aberdeen recreation council game - his first as a quarterback. He has impressed recruiters with his throwing skills during camps at Maryland and Penn State. The B-average student has drawn interest from Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Colorado, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Boston College.

"E.J. didn't have a role model for the recruiting process, but Erin does, in E.J. Erin knows what he's got to do academically and in the weight room, and he knows character's part of it," said Kevin Reilly, E.J.'s former high school coach and Harbert's assistant.

"Erin's a physically talented athlete with good hand-eye coordination and space awareness. He throws a tight spiral, knows how to get air under the ball."

Henderson ran the option to near perfection during a recent practice. He faked to the trail runner, rolled right and nailed a 15-yard pass to DeJan Brown between two defenders. Later, he split two defenders with a 30-yard pass to Brown.

"When Erin puts it up there, you know where it's going to be," said Brown, who has caught all four of the passes thrown to him, three for touchdowns. "On this fade against Frederick, he laid the ball up right on the money. I caught it over a defender at the 10-yard line and just walked in for the touchdown."

Henderson can be as ferocious on defense as he is accurate on offense. During a series against the Eagles' scout offense, he bolted after a sweeping running back and - with a thunderous hit - plowed into him, drilling him to the ground.

Henderson said his aggression spills over into his quarterback position.

"I can't be one of those soft QBs who slides or gets out of bounds. I like to dish out punishment whenever I can," Henderson said. "In one game last year, I ran over a safety on the goal line. It's the type of thing that fires up my teammates."

Erin respects what E.J. says and has accomplished, but he's ready to make a name for himself.

"He tells me the truth about my game and I take it to heart. He's my No. 1 critic," said Erin.

"I'm proud of everything E.J.'s accomplished, but when I'm out there on the field, doing the work - like E.J. does the work - I deserve credit for doing it as Erin Henderson."

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