TU quarterback Kalen Henderson gets a second chance
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Saturday, August 06, 2011
8/06/11 at 5:49 AM
Kalen Henderson made a mistake that nearly changed his life last spring.
The Tulsa redshirt freshman broke team policy - the actual infraction was never made public - but it was serious enough to get Henderson suspended indefinitely from the football team last April.
The quarterback had to stay clean through the rest of the spring and also all through summer to be reinstated. He cleared those hurdles and now finds himself as the Golden Hurricane's backup quarterback following Shavodrick Beaver's decision to transfer.
Did Henderson realize how important football was to him once it was taken away?
"Definitely," said Henderson, who was punished along with reinstated linebacker Zik Asiegbu. "After the situation, it made me work harder on and off the field. It pushed me harder to get back where I fell from.
"My GPA skyrocketed to 3.7. I got to where I needed academically, and I polished up some things athletically to what I needed to work on. I had a good summer."
College can be a learning process, both in the classroom and off the field. Henderson's matured as a man.
"It opened my eyes. I have to stay level-headed and take this opportunity to get my degree," he said.
Now Henderson finds himself behind G.J. Kinne on the depth chart as the backup quarterback.
Is he prepared to take the field if something happened to Kinne?
"Kalen, physically, is very ready. Emotionally, he is ready. Mentally, he is a one-year quarterback," TU coach Bill Blankenship said. "There is no shortcut to experience. That's the thing I love about G.J.'s situation. He is a third-year starter, a fifth-year player ... Kalen will be a very good quarterback. He is physically very mature. But there is no shortcut to taking snaps and taking them in action.
"The fact that we red-shirted him last year was really good for his overall development, but he got no snaps under center. He'll be coming in this completely new to really playing college football. It is a concern, but it is something that we know coming into fall camp that we have to really establish who our second quarterback is and make sure he is really prepared."
Henderson started playing quarterback seriously in the ninth grade. He actually drew some snaps in the eighth grade at the position, but Hurricane Katrina forced the Mount Airy, La., native to move to Texas after just three games.
He has been labeled in the past as a dual-threat quarterback similar to Kinne. Former quarterbacks coach James Kilian said that is not that case, calling Henderson a pocket passer.
Henderson concurred, saying that is the reason he came to Tulsa.
"When I was recruited by (former) coach (Mike) Norvell, he asked me if I was a 'run-first' quarterback," Henderson said. "The reason I signed here is because TU throws the ball 30-40 times a game and because of my throwing ability."
Henderson knows that he is just one play away from being Tulsa's quarterback.
"It's a learning process, and I've had to grow up fast," he said. "I've taken a lot of mental reps. Coming off of my redshirt year, things are going to be thrown at me fast. I have to hit the ground running and learn as I go."
Original Print Headline: TU quarterback gets a second chance
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391