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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Q&A with run-on LB Carter Henderson

By Josh Moyer

Linebacker Carter Henderson (Murrysville, Pa./Franklin Regional) received several FCS scholarship offers, but he instead decided to accept Penn State's walk-on invitation.

He recently spoke with NittanyNation at length about his commitment, how he set a school record with 145 tackles and what his expectations are for playing time.

NittanyNation: You had about a half-dozen scholarship offers from several FCS and Div. II schools, such as New Hampshire and Duquesne, but decided to turn those down to play and pay for PSU. Why?

Carter Henderson: I would just say it was the opportunity. Yeah, I feel like I could've taken those scholarships -- any of them -- and go to a school for free. But I felt like this was my best opportunity athletically and academically, because I want to major in engineering, and this is one of the best engineering schools in the country.

I feel like if I went to a lower division, I wouldn't have fully known my potential. And that's why I chose PSU. I'm willing to put everything I got into this.

NN: You put up a pretty crazy stat line with 145 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. Your solo stops -- 86 -- were also more than twice as many as the No. 2 tackler. Did you blitz often; how did those numbers come about?

CH: Actually, it was a school record -- it was the season tackle record. I played the Mike linebacker position, and we play a 3-5. My coaches say my instinctiveness to the ball is what really did it for me. I was good at reading the play so, when a guard would pull or something like that, I would read it right away and make the play.

I would blitz a lot, and you can see that on my film. But a lot of college coaches thought those numbers came from me just blitzing every play, but not a lot of them were blitzes. It's just hitting the hole fast.

NN: What are you most looking forward to now that you've committed as a run-on?

CH: Probably running out of the tunnel in that first game. You can represent one of the best football programs in the country, and they always have the tradition -- so, just being able to wear that jersey and run out with your teammates, it's going to be quite an experience in front of 100,000 fans.

NN: Was there a moment where you knew Penn State was the right place for you?

CH: I would say I knew when I went to that Run-On Day that this would be my choice, because you just can't compete with those facilities. We went to the weight room, and that was an eye-opener for me, because I feel like a run-on or a walk-on -- or whatever you want to say -- that's where I'm going to be spending most of my time. And I really feel like that's where I can get a jump-start on getting bigger, stronger and faster.

NN: What are your goals or expectations as far as playing time?

CH: Well, I mean, everyone's probably looking at us like it's a long-shot. But, my goal in my first two years, is to just be a special-teams player, because I played all special teams in high school. Kickoff was my favorite, because it's just two teams running at each other in like a 50-yard sprint. That's the one I'm hoping for; I think it's one of the greatest plays in football. There's some big hits there.

NN: What do you do best as a linebacker, and what do you need to improve on?

CH: Well, obviously, my weakness -- and this is why I think I was overlooked at the Division I level -- is my size. I'm listed at 6-1, 215, and that's accurate. But I think Division I schools have their minds set on 6-2, 230, so I was a little undersized. But I think my speed [low 4.7s] makes up for it, and my lateral speed is really good. I think my instinctiveness to get there before anyone gets there to block me, that really helps me in the long run.

As far as areas to improve, I would probably say my pass coverage, because in our 3-5 defense as a Mike linebacker, you're really not dropping back or covering receivers, because you got four linebackers on the outside doing that. I was really good at playing the screen, though.