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Terps' Henderson leaving early for NFL draft

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- When the seniors on the Maryland football team lined up for the final wind sprint of their college careers at a practice before last week's Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, junior linebacker Erin Henderson was notable for his presence.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said later that it could have been taken as a sign of Henderson's intention to forgo his senior year.

Yesterday, Henderson announced he would enter his name in this year's NFL draft, scheduled for April 26-27.

"Everybody was behind me, and everybody agreed that it was time for me to go and take the step to the next level," Henderson said in a conference call with reporters. "And we just agreed that whichever way I went that I would have no regrets about the decision I make. Right now, I think we're making the right one."

After coming from Aberdeen High as a quarterback and quickly being converted into a linebacker, Henderson enjoyed a career at Maryland that was productive but marred by injury.

He missed his redshirt freshman year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee before the start of the season. He also played hurt this season, missing only one game despite knee and back injuries.

At 6 feet 3, 236 pounds, Henderson is taller and leaner than his older brother, E.J., a former Maryland star who is a starting linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. The older Henderson returned to school as a senior after hurting his back in the 2001 Orange Bowl, then was a second-round draft pick.

According to a couple of NFL scouts, the younger Henderson is not expected to be taken as high in the draft as his brother, who was selected 40th overall.

Erin Henderson, who finished his final season at Maryland with a team-high 133 tackles, including 11 in a 21-14 loss to Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl, said that he expects to be taken in the third round.

Henderson said he has known for a while that, barring serious injury, he would be leaving after this season. He recently graduated with a degree in communications.

"After the first four or five games [this season], I kind of already knew," Henderson said. "But I just didn't want it to be a media thing."

Henderson said that Friedgen wasn't surprised by his decision.

Friedgen couldn't be reached to comment, but in a statement released by the school, the coach said: "Erin has made a tremendous contribution to our program, both on and off the field. We wish him the best in the NFL."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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