04-01-2005, 10:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Henderson hoping to show LSU sent another gifted receiver to NFL
3/31/2005, 4:21 p.m. CT
By MARY FOSTER
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â Devery Henderson was hurt worse last season than he'd ever been hurt in football.
It wasn't an injury. It was the pain of not living up to expectations.
Henderson, fresh off LSU's BCS championship season, was a second-round pick for the New Orleans Saints. But he played in only one game, with no catches, no yards, no impact.
"It was pretty hard to sit out," Henderson said. "Especially when you had old teammates from college out there doing a good job playing for the team they played for."
There was one old teammate in particular: Michael Clayton, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers No. 1 draft pick, who led all NFL rookies with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven TDs.
Henderson, who was one of LSU's top offensive weapons during his last two college seasons, had expected to give Clayton competition for top rookie honors. Instead, he could only watch and wait.
"I just sucked it up and absorbed everything I could sitting on the side watching and learning from the veteran players," Henderson said.
Henderson's season got off to a bad start when held out for part of training camp until his contract was worked out. Then he struggled with the playbook, all of which left him behind Joe Horn, Donte' Stallworth, Jerome Paython, Michael Lewis and Talman Gardner, on the depth chart.
Henderson needed to add some strength, develop better technique, and learn the system, coach Jim Haslett said throughout the season. But Haslett never regretted the pick.
" Everybody says 'Oh, he didn't play,'" Haslett said after last season. "Devery Henderson will play and he will be a star in this league, the kid's got everything."
Henderson spent the season studying his teammates as well as studying with them. He tried to learn how they played the position, how they ran routes, how they studied opponents.
"I can't say how much better I am," Henderson said. "But mentally I think I did a good job improving, watching film and preparing myself for the season coming."
Henderson is taking part in the offseason conditioning program now.
"I tell people all the time Devery's going to be an exciting player for the Saints for a long time," Stallworth said. "He's got speed, he can catch, he can make moves. He runs good routs. He's young, he's got those young fresh legs. It's a matter of him getting out there and getting actual experience. He played well in the preseason last ear. He treated last year like a redshirt year."
Henderson was happy for his old teammate's success last year if maybe a bit envious. He and Clayton talk frequently, Henderson said, and Clayton has always offered encouragement.
"He's just waiting for me to try to do something so we'll both be up there on that pedestal," Henderson said.