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Henderson following in big brother's footsteps

August 10, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Erin Henderson has positioned himself to put a new twist on what is becoming a family tradition with University of Maryland football.

E.J. Henderson was the talk of the Terrapins defense, becoming a two-time All-American at linebacker before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

Now, Erin Henderson is the TALK of the Terps, in more ways than one.

On the surface, the junior could well be the face of the 2007 defense. He has received many preseason mentions to help make the case.

But overall, it's because this Henderson is very vocal.

"I've never been a quiet guy," he admitted during Maryland's annual media day.

Now, with all the time that Henderson has talked the talk, he's on the verge of walking the walk to enhance Maryland's outlook.

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"I think he'll be the leader of our defense," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's bigger and stronger right now and his leg is fully recovered. I would expect that Erin's going to have a very big year for us.

"He's very similar in development to E.J. He's not the same type of player as E.J., but what they both have is an instinct to know where the ball is."

Erin has followed a path similar to the one E.J. took to become the centerpiece of the Maryland defense.

E.J. started for Maryland as a sophomore and rolled the experience into becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference's defensive player of the year in 2001 and 2002. He was named to numerous preseason teams and won the Butkus Award - signifying the top linebacker in the country - in 2002.

And, perhaps most important, Maryland was 21-5 in those two seasons, with an ACC Championship and trips to the Orange and Peach Bowls as a result.

Erin is bringing some of that anticipation back to Maryland.

He started 12 of the Terps' 13 games last season. He enters the year touting an armful of preseason honors - Playboy first-team All-American, All-ACC first team in Athlon, Lindy's and The Sporting News, the NCAA's second-ranked outside linebacker in The Sporting News and fourth-ranked in Lindy's. He is also on the Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list.

E.J. was 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds when he started his junior season. Erin is checking in at 6-3 and 236. E.J. had 109 total tackles as a sophomore, Erin collected 114 hits.

But the comparisons end there for the Hendersons.

"Erin and E.J.'s personalities are quite different," Friedgen said. "E.J. wouldn't say a whole lot. I would say that E.J. didn't like the camera and Erin hasn't found a camera that he didn't like."

Erin brings a flamboyant, confident edge to the Maryland defense. He's a good quote and soundbite for the media and isn't afraid to audition.

"I'm going to be graduating here very soon," said Henderson, who is on track to get his degree in communications in 3 1/2 years. "You guys remember how well I treated you now. I hope you repay the kindness when I graduate."

Before then, it's all about football, and Henderson has a sense of what he's about to enter.

"I had this honor in high school before. I had to handle becoming 'the guy,'" he said. "Right now, (players) don't have to talk about (the defense) as much as they did before. We are able to go out there and fly around to get to the ball. We have all the same people playing and now we can do things on instinct."

Still, it will be something new, so Henderson is turning to E.J. for some advice and guidance. He's trying to incorporate some of his older brother's traits to get ready for the season.

"(E.J.) didn't get looking too far into the future. He took it one game at a time," Henderson said. "He has told me a lot. He told me not to let the preseason stuff get to me. It doesn't mean much. You have to go out and play."

And there is one last thing that Henderson realized while coming into the Maryland spotlight. No matter how good he is, he can't do it all by himself.

"But we have a lot of good guys around me. I have a great line in front of me and a great safety (strong safety Christian Varner) behind me," Henderson said. "We all just have to get on the same page. I'm excited to be in this role."

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