January 6, 2011 8:39:00 AM
It''s natural for players want to reach the highest level of their sport.
But Brad Henderson recognizes a good offer when he sees one -- even if, at first, he doesn''t know exactly where it will take him.
Once Henderson had a chance to visit Northwestern State (La.) and talk to the football team''s coaches and to some of the players, he knew where he was going to spend his final two years of college.
"I wasn''t sure I wanted to go there, but the quarterbacks coach (who also is the offensive coordinator) came to Scooba five or six times and to Starkville two or three times and visited my mother''s job (in Eupora)," Henderson said. "He also called me a lot and pursued me, and that pretty much did it for me. He told me he wanted me and that I was needed in the program."
The tenacity Northwestern State showed in the recruiting process combined with the chance Henderson has to earn playing time as a junior in the 2011 season helped convince him last week to give a verbal commitment to the school. He plans to make his decision official next month in conjunction with National Signing Day.
Henderson, a 6-foot, 215-pound quarterback from Starkville High, led the East Mississippi Community College football team to a 5-5 finish (4-2 in the MACJC North Division) and a return trip to the playoffs. He was 232 of 388 (59.8 percent) for 2,763 yards, including 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 320 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.
A year ago, Henderson served as backup to Randall Mackey and appeared in 12 games. He rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns and was 46 of 77 (59.7 percent) for 475 yards. He threw five touchdowns and five interceptions. EMCC won the MACJC North Division title, the state title, and the Mississippi Bowl en route to an 11-1 finish in 2009.
Henderson credited his years at EMCC for helping him mature as a young man and as a player. He said he would have loved to return to Scooba if it was a four-year school. He also received scholarship offers from Southeastern Louisiana and Shaw University (N.C.). He said the University of Alabama asked him to be a preferred walk-on, and that he had received calls from the University of Kansas and Texas Christian University.
"I think it was a great learning experience (to go to EMCC) to get me to where I am today," Henderson said. "I wouldn''t trade it for the world."
Henderson admits he never envisioned he would wind up at Northwestern State. He said he had never heard of the school before one of the coaches visited the EMCC campus looking for defensive players. EMCC coach Buddy Stephens brought up Henderson as a player who was available and interested at playing football at a four-year school. The coach took home film and quickly got back in touch with EMCC and Henderson to begin the recruiting process.
"After being around the coaches I liked them and I liked the whole program," Henderson said. "I thought going there might be a good choice."
Henderson followed up on the initial contact in early November and visited Northwestern State the second week of December. The more he thought about his future he realized he had an opportunity in a program with a similar offense to EMCC''s that would give him a chance to play right away. He picked Northwestern State while working in his brother in law''s restaurant in Fayetteville, Ga. Henderson reports to school Sunday to begin the semester.
"It is all part of how hard you work," Henderson said. "At EMCC, one of the things I had to do was grow and mature and really work at things to get to where you wanted. I am going into a new setting and I am going to take that confidence in myself and put it in other guys around me for them to follow me and try to get that program where it wants to go. I am going to come in and try to bring an optimistic attitude to the program."
Northwestern State is in Natchitoches, La., which is in the northwestern part of the state. Five quarterbacks attempted passes for the Demons, who play in the Football Championship Subdivision and went 5-6 this season and 4-3 in the Southland Conference. Sophomore Paul Harris started nine of 10 games and threw for 1,821 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior Tyler Wolfe played in nine games, making one start. None of the other three QBs attempted more than 13 passes.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.