'Surprised' Henderson Lasts until Second Round

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

'Surprised' Henderson Lasts until Second Round


Byline: Bob Cohn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It was a down year for linebackers in the NFL Draft and a downer of a Saturday for Maryland's E.J. Henderson. The Terrapins' All-American middle linebacker waited around with friends and family in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., until he was taken with the eighth pick in the second round, No.40 overall, by the Minnesota Vikings.

By then, the draft was nearly six hours old.

"I really was surprised going so late, but what can you say?" Henderson told reporters. "I really didn't think I was going to drop to the second round."

Henderson was expected to go somewhere in the latter part of the first round according to most draft projections and was rated the 24th best player overall by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Vikings coach Mike Tice, who played quarterback at Maryland from 1978 through 1980, indicated Henderson might start out backing up veteran Greg Biekert in the middle.

"E.J. turned out to be the highest-rated player we had left on our board in the second round," Tice said. "Plus, he's a guy that can learn behind Greg Biekert, who we think is a great pro, a real smart guy that can help bring E.J. Henderson along to one day replace him. So we're real excited about the pick, and certainly we'll be hearing that Maryland fight song pretty soon [in training camp]."

Henderson said he will accept any role he is given.

"I'm just trying to come in and learn the system and help the team however I can," he said. "I expect to be an impact player, somebody that is going to help the team in whatever way I can.

"If it's playing on defense, starting, second team, special teams, whatever I can do to help the team. ... I think no matter where I'm playing, I will make plays. When you're watching film, you're gonna see me out there. You're gonna notice me."

Henderson benefited from the friendship between Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who worked together at Georgia Tech. Friedgen said he recommended Henderson highly.

"It's a good place for a Maryland guy to be," Friedgen said after the Terps' Red-White spring scrimmage. "E.J. will have a great NFL career."

Despite the addition of Henderson, it wasn't a great day for the Vikings. The team failed to complete a trade with Baltimore that would have added extra picks. Minnesota ended up passing on the No.7 pick altogether and had to wait two selections before taking defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

Friedgen said O'Leary told him the Vikings expected Henderson to be drafted somewhere between Nos. …

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