Henderson was the school’s first Playbay All-American (2007) selection since his brother, E.J., was chosen to that same squad in 2002. The consummate team player, he made the switch from quarterback to linebacker in 2004, growing from a 205-pound passer into the 236-pound terror on the playing field he has become over the last two years.
A true warrior, he has battled left knee problems ever since sitting out the 2005 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear. In 2007, he spent most of the practice weeks on the sideline with a meniscus tear and anterior cruciate ligament sprain in the same knee, putting forth a valiant effort on the field.
The Terrapins have had a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker in five of the last seven seasons. Henderson’s brother, E.J., (2001-02), and D’Qwell Jackson (2004-05) were first-team choices. Erin, who also received All-ACC, All-American and Butkus Award semifinalist recognition as a junior, finishing his two-year career with 247 tackles, leading the conference in tackles in 2007 while ranking second the previous season.
At Aberdeen High School, Henderson was a four-year starter who played quarterback and linebacker, excelling on both sides of the ball. He was named Baltimore Sun Player of the Year as a senior, and he was also a first-team All-State (Associated Press), All-Metro (Baltimore Sun) and All-County honors. As a junior, he was the Associated Press All-State middle linebacker and Mid-Atlantic All-Region pick by Super Prep. He added All-Region accolades by Prep Star and ranked the sixth-best inside linebacker in the country by ESPN.com’s Tom Lemming.
In 2003, Henderson completed 84-of-155 passes for 1,580 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions, leading his team to its first state championship. He also ran for 883 yards with eight touchdowns while posting a team-high 138 tackles and two interceptions. His best game may have been in the state 2A semifinals when he threw for three scores on a sprained ankle, bringing his team back from an 18-point deficit.
Henderson gained 1,005 yards with 15 touchdowns passing, ran for 350 yards and six scores and averaged over 13 tackles per game as a junior. He also lettered in basketball as a small forward and performed as a sprinter on the track team.
Henderson was recruited by Virginia, Purdue and North Carolina, but decided to enroll at Maryland in 2004. He spent the first part of the season on the scout team as a quarterback before shifting to outside linebacker at midseason. He was primed to take over weak-side outside linebacker duties in 2005, but suffered a torn knee ligament two weeks into August camp and was forced to sit out the entire season.
In 2006, he started 12 games at weak-side linebacker, earning second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. He led the team and ranked second in the league with 114 tackles (54 solos), including a sack and 6.5 stops for losses. He also caused three fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes, returning one for a touchdown.
Despite battling knee problems all year (missed the Georgia Tech game), Henderson led the ACC and ranked ninth in the nation with 133 tackles (59 solos), adding a sack and eleven stops behind the line of scrimmage. The All-American and All-ACC first-team pick also recovered four fumbles, picked off a pass and deflected two others while also gaining 12 yards on a fake punt.
After the Emerald Bowl, Henderson announced that he was leaving Maryland and applying for the 2008 NFL Draft. “After discussing the matter with my family in recent days, we felt like the time was right to take the next step,” Henderson said in a statement. “The fact that he graduates leans toward him coming out,” head coach Ralph Friedgen said of his linebacker, who already has graduated. “I really can’t complain when a guy’s got a degree. I just want to make sure he gets the most bang for his buck.”
- Well-built athlete.
- Chiseled frame with room for additional growth.
- Good key and diagnosis skills.
- Reads the action quickly and puts himself in position to make a play on the ball.
- Aggressive to attack the line of scrimmage.
- Good lateral quickness to break down in space and make the secure open-field tackle.
- Good speed to the flanks.
- Can beat the running back to the edge.
- Good in pursuit.
- Protects his knees and avoids the trash while keeping his head up.
- At least adequate feel for coverage.
- Good overall athleticism.
- Has shown the ability to bounce back from major surgery with no loss of speed or aggression.
- Has improved throughout his career and appears to be an ascending player.
- Good bloodlines. – Brother, E.J. – a former two-time All-American for Maryland, now a starting linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings.
- Has struggled with injuries throughout his career.
- Torn ACL in his left knee caused him to miss the entire 2005 season.
- Missed only one game, but was held out of practice (only playing on Saturday) in many more games [his final] season after tearing the meniscus and spraining the ACL in the same knee.
- Relies too much on his athleticism to evade blocks, rather than physically confronting them.
And now Erin Henderson is officially pissed that he is not getting more respect in the NFL. In all fairness, he has yet to show that he is an ideal playmaker at outside linebacker, so many fans don’t have a whole lot of faith that he can transition well to the inside. However, he has proven to be, at the very least, a serviceable starter. Henderson has reportedly bulked up for the position, building himself up to nearly 250 pounds and is preparing to play angry. In response to his offseason focus to prepare for the starting job in the middle, Hendersaid said “I’m only going to get better from here. I’m going into my third season, and I’ve never felt more confident about myself or about my game than I do right now.”
With the strength of the team around him, and his newfound motivation to quiet all the naysayers calling for Urlacher or Mauti, Erin is poised to have what may be the best year of his career.