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Henderson follows in brother's footsteps

August 31, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It might be a good thing that football pants don't have back pockets.

With Erin Henderson around, nobody's wallet would be safe.

Henderson is a pedigreed linebacker for the University of Maryland football team. And if you are a good linebacker, you have to be part magician and part pickpocket to help control opposing offenses.

It's simply a case of search and destroy when Henderson is on the field.

"He has similarities to his brother E.J.," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They both have the same instinct to be able to find the football. It's like you like to have a quarterback who can see the entire field, you love to have a linebacker who can always find the football."

For Henderson, a junior, it's all in his genes. His brother E.J. was an all-American linebacker and Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year in 2001 and 2002 for the Terps. He was named to numerous preseason teams and won the Butkus Award - signifying the top linebacker in the country - in 2002.

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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 Henderson finds himself at the beginning of a similar track, all because he can visualize a play before it happens.

"If I knew how I do it, everyone would want to know," Henderson said. "It's just one of those things you have to be able to do. You have to have an idea where the ball is and get over to it. You have to sit there and have an idea of what the running back is going to go."

It is a talent Maryland will be counting on this season. The linebacking corps is one of the Terps' strengths as they get ready to open the season against Villanova on Saturday.

Top-notched linebacking has become one of Maryland's trademarks, which is the product of two factors, one blessed and the other earned.

"It's instinct and it's watching films," Henderson said. "It's a little of both. I was blessed with some talent, but it also comes with knowing how our system works."

While Henderson may possess the magical talents that make him one of the nation's top college linebackers, his main job will be making sure the Maryland defense works efficiently. Now, a year after changing the scheme, the Terps seem ready to follow Henderson's lead.

"Last year, people weren't as comfortable as they are now," Henderson said. "Everybody has a better understanding of what role they are supposed to play and I think that's going to allow people to go out there and show their true athleticism without worrying if they're doing the right thing on every play."

If that's true, opponents may have a tough time hiding the ball from Henderson and the Terps this season.

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