MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football outside linebacker Chris Henderson recently sat down with USAJaguars.com to discuss what led to his decision to come back for his “Super Senior” season, how he’s changed since arriving in Mobile in 2016 and his relationship with his dad, among other things.
Henderson, a senior from Hampton, Ga., has been a member of the Jaguar program since the 2016 season. Heading into Saturday night’s Homecoming contest against Arkansas State, he has appeared in 52 games, recorded 61 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries in addition to two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. This season, Henderson has posted 21 stops, including two for loss and a sack, while also being credited for blocking a field goal against Alcorn State.
What led to your decision of coming back for your “Super Senior” season?
“I felt like there was more left on the table for me and that I could do more for the program. Once I found out that Coach [Kane] Wommack was going to be hired as the new coach, that made the decision even easier for me to come back and play for him for my final year.”
You began your career playing your first two seasons under Coach Wommack. How has the experience playing under him this season been different from those first two seasons?
“I feel he learned more things at Indiana, so when he came back he brought those things that he had learned up there back to South. There really isn’t much different in him other than the way he approaches the team and the way he is able to demand the attention of the entire room.”
What do you like most about playing in the SwarmD?
“I like that we fly around to the ball. Coach Wommack brought the SwarmD back, so there’s a standard that we have to live up to every day in practice as well as games.”
Over the course of your career here at South, you’ve played multiple positions in the defense. Which has been your favorite and why?
“I would say the position that I’m at now [outside linebacker]. It’s like I always say about myself, I’m a Swiss Army knife. I can rush the passer, stop the run, drop back in coverage. This position allows me to showcase what I’m capable of doing.”
How have you changed as a player and an individual since arriving in Mobile in 2016?
“Of course I’ve developed physically, where I’ve gotten bigger, faster and stronger, but I’m most proud of myself in the way that I’ve developed mentally. I’m able to recognize formations better and have a better understanding about what plays are about to come.”
What do you feel are some of the strengths of the defense?
“Our front seven. They are definitely the strength of our defense. They play hard down in and down out.”
What factored into your decision to come to South Alabama?
“The opportunity to play early, along with the fact that it was a young program. They were coming off a bowl game two years prior to my arrival and I knew the potential of this program. To see that starting to happen now is what I dreamed of when I signed.”
You received your undergraduate degree in leisure studies in May and you’re now working on a second degree in sociology. What do you want to do after your football career is over?
“I really want to coach football at the collegiate level. I want to get a kid fresh out of high school like I was and be able to help develop them into a man. The best coaches are the best teachers, and I feel like I’m a great teacher.”
What are some things the defense needs to do in order to be successful against Arkansas State this weekend?
“We just need to play fast. You turn on the film of the Georgia Southern game and you saw 11 guys playing fast every play. When we go out there and play like that, it’s hard for anyone to play against us.”
You and your dad seem to have a very close relationship. Talk to me about it and what it’s meant to you to have that relationship with him.
“My dad is my best friend. When I was a kid he used to always throw the football with me in the front yard, or play basketball with me or we’d go swimming with each other. Over the years as I got older, [our relationship] went from a father-son relationship to more of a best friend relationship. He took me to all my football camps. He’s been at every game since I started playing, he hasn’t missed one. That’s huge, because a lot of people aren’t blessed enough to have a father in their life like mine.”
What are one or two things you will take away with you from your time here at South?
“I would say how to deal with different types of personalities. At this level, you encounter many more personalities than you do in high school or in your hometown. The ability to do that, along with learning how to be a man in general. You have to learn how to be on your own, how to pay rent and take care of yourself without your parents being around.”
What type of leadership role have you assumed on the team?
“I’m kind of becoming more of a vocal leader. That’s really not me, but we need it, so I’m kind of the vocal leader. Of course, though, I also try to lead by example by playing every snap as hard as I’m capable of. I take game reps in practice and work hard in the weight room. That’s my role right now.”
We’re on the back half of the schedule now. What are some areas you want to focus on improving in and making yourself an even better player during the second half of the season?
“I would say physicality and pass rushing. I do a lot at my position by dropping in coverage along with other things, but the pass-rushing aspect is what I want to continue to work on. I’ve got to get better at getting around the corner.”
How do you feel the team has progressed as a whole since the start of the season?
“We have definitely gotten closer and are learning more and more on how to play with each other. We had a lot of transfers, so the chemistry was kind of off early, but now that we’re on the back half of the schedule and have had a couple of games to play with each other, we’ve improved. Our brotherhood is stronger.”
What other sports did you play in high school or growing up?
“I started off playing basketball, but I wasn’t too good at it. I stepped on the football field in eighth grade and there wasn’t any looking back from there.”
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