NEW LES­SON FOR ROOKIE RB

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nicki Jhab­vala

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.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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.

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