NEW LESSON FOR ROOKIE RB
De’Angelo Henderson is learning he doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s a hard lesson for the 5-foot7, 208-pound Broncos running back. Being a perfectionist, after all, is what propelled him from Coastal Carolina to the NFL.
De’Angelo Henderson has had a familiar face by his side, coaching him, encouraging him, pushing him throughout the Broncos’ first week of training camp. Between team drills, running backs/assistant head coach Eric Studesville has been in Henderson’s ear. Throughout afternoon walkthroughs, Studesville has been in Henderson’s ear.
After a walkthrough, as players filter out of the field house and trot back to the locker room, Studesville keeps Henderson back, walking with him slowly, still in his ear.
“He’s talking me out of being a perfectionist,” Henderson said. “He wants me to be excellent but not perfect, so sometimes I strive to be perfect on everything I do. He’d like me to be excellent, so if you mess up, hit the reset button and start over and go from there.”
Henderson admits he’s his own worst critic, a trait that has paid off, propelling him from Coastal Carolina to the NFL after many major college programs passed him over. At 5-foot-7, 208 pounds, Henderson has already proved to
be much more than the little guy.
“He’s a quick, explosive, marksout runner,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “For a shorter, stockier guy, he can get narrow through holes. He’s quick through holes. As a defender, it’s hard to see the guy. He’s behind (tackle) Menelik Watson and he makes a cut. That’s a surprise for a linebacker. It’s a surprise when he’s in the A, B and C gap, but you can’t see the little guy. He’s fast through the hole.”
The Broncos added speed to their offense in the offseason, a priority for Joseph as he began to revamp the unit’s scheme. In doing so, they welcomed an influx of talented backs with explosiveness and potential to jump-start a facet of their game that ranked 27th in the NFL last year with only 92.8 yards rushing per game.
Henderson, along with veteran Stevan Ridley, has led the way.
“He’s been a really pleasant surprise,” Studesville said of Ridley, who was signed when Devontae Booker suffered a wrist injury. “He’s a pro, and he knows the great opportunity that’s sitting here. We’re very excited about him.”
Studesville is excited about the running back group as whole, with good reason. In an offseason when the focus has been on the passing game and finding the Broncos’ starting quarterback, eyes have shifted to the run game that has come alive early in camp workouts, helped by an improved offensive line.
Henderson is the youngest and smallest and least-experienced of the bunch, but one with the “juice,” as Joseph likes to say, as a runner, a receiver and in pass protection.
His burst and “surprise” factor were noticeable in his four years at Coastal Carolina, where he set school records in all major rushing categories: carries (732), yards (4,635), touchdowns (58) and 100yard games (25).
“At that level of competition, when you turned on the tape, he flashed,” Studesville said. “He made a lot of plays and made you like him and watch him. He runs hard and yeah, he’s a little guy, but he’s tough. I liked his game.”
At the NFL combine in March, where Henderson was interviewed by the Broncos, he ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash that tied for fourth among running backs, alongside Christian McCaffrey and future Philadelphia Eagles draft pick Donnel Pumphrey.
Not bad for a kid who received only four scholarship offers coming out of high school in Summerville, S.C.
“He’s a guy that’s impressed me,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “Henderson, he’s a guy that just comes downhill, so I’m excited to see what he does when we put the pads on.”
But as Henderson hears the praise from veterans and heeds the advice from the voice constantly in his ear, he said his tendency to seek perfection is simply to prove one thing.
“That I can play football,” he said. “A lot of people got a lot of doubts, because I come from a small school. I’m short in stature compared to other running backs. Even though I got drafted here, there are still a lot of people who said we shouldn’t have gotten him. I’m going to show you why you should have taken me.”
Broncos rookie De’Angelo Henderson squeezes through the pads held by teammates C.J. Anderson, left, and Juwan Thompson during training camp Wednesday. Henderson, a sixth-round pick, broke Coastal Carolina records in carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and 100-yard rushing games.