Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forget the State Championship in High School or the Bitter ... [Derived Headline]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forget the State Championship in High School or the Bitter ... [Derived Headline]

Article excerpt

Forget the state championship in high school or the bitter rivalries from college. Forget the bowl games, too, even if a national championship was at stake. This game - this seemingly meaningless, quasi-pickup game Thursday against the not-really Philadelphia Eagles - is for many players the biggest game of their football lives.

"Like my Super Bowl," said Quadree Henderson, who, for all he knows, will get one shot to convince the Steelers they should keep a return man on their roster (a long shot, at best).

Standing 5-foot-8, Henderson is the shortest player in camp. He left Pitt a year early on the hope that NFL teams still care about the endangered species known as kick returners. He went undrafted, despite a college career that saw him return four kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns.

Right after the draft, he got a call from Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith - a Type-A personality if ever there was one. Type A-plus is more like it. Smith probably cheers at the top of his lungs when he picks up a drive-thru order.

"Coach Danny Smith said, 'We need a return guy; we don't have one,'" Henderson recalled Tuesday. "That kind of sold it for me. He said, 'Come in here next Thursday with a smile on your face and get to work.'"

Two things Henderson owns in abundant supply: speed and confidence.

Exhibit A: "I definitely feel like I was the best returner in college football history," he said.

Exhibit B: "I'm real fast. Everybody saw the 4.5 I had at the combine, but I ran 4.37 at my Pro Day. I definitely feel like special teams still play a big factor in every NFL game, and I feel I can flip the field position no matter the circumstance."

He said it again for emphasis: "I can flip the field position for this team."

Rookie running back Jaylen Samuels is another player who can't wait to dive into the deep end - and if history is an indicator, he will cross the goal line at least once Thursday. …

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