Carter Henderson is a redshirt senior inside linebacker for the Duquesne Dukes. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He chose to attend Penn State and play for Bill O’Brien after high school. At 5’11” and 215 pounds, he’s an undersized linebacker. He doesn’t win with athleticism but he more than makes up for his lack of athleticism with very good instincts and a nose for the football. He’s a very smart player and he’s quick to process the play in front of him – something that he attributes to his time in the film room. He trusts his decision-making ability, and as a result, he has a quick first step. He is also skilled at disengaging blockers. He does not quit. He gives everything on every play. Most noticeably to me, he is not always the closest player to the ball, but he is usually the one who makes the tackle, as proven by his team-high 90 tackles in 2016.
I recently had the opportunity to get to know Carter Henderson as he was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions.
You committed to Penn State in 2013 and transferred to Duquesne a year later. What led to your decision to transfer?
My time there was great, but after my first year, Bill O’Brien and the whole staff who recruited me left for the Texans. After that, I fell out of love with PSU and was looking for a change-up.
What was it about Duquesne that made you feel at home?
They had a great coaching staff and the players really bought into the program. I live a 25-minute drive from campus, so it lets all my family come tailgate and enjoy the games. Duquesne also had a great winning tradition in the NEC which we have kept since I got here. We’ve won our conference twice in the two years I’ve been here.
That’s awesome. What have you learned about yourself since transferring to Duquesne?
The atmosphere of the weight room or the locker room doesn’t matter, if you work hard all the time, you will earn the respect of your teammates and they will begin to adapt to your style of work.
You were born and raised in Pennsylvania so you had to choose an allegiance between Penn State and Pittsburgh at some point, right?
[Haha] This is a tough question. I grew up about a 15- minute ride from Pittsburgh. I grew up going to their games, but I played at PSU and still have some boys there. I think I gotta stick with the hometown team and say Pitt on this one. Choosing to play football at one of those two schools my senior year was one of the toughest choices ever.
Who is your biggest inspiration on the field?
I really enjoyed watching Chris Borland play the game. He was an undersized linebacker, but he had a lot of heart in the game. His motor never stopped and played the game full tilt; I try to model my game after his.
How about your biggest inspiration off the field?
Off the field, it would be my mother. My father passed away when I was nine, and she was able to raise three boys on her own. She made a lot of sacrifices to make us all successful men, and I am always very thankful for that.
What trait do you think gives you the biggest advantage on the field?
I would say my instincts on the field that comes from a lot of film work. I like to be the smartest on the field which allows me to play faster. I can get by blocks faster if I recognize something I’ve seen before which is a huge advantage.
Which area of your game has improved the most? Which area still needs some work?
My biggest improvement has been with my block take on, engaging lineman and shedding them to make the tackle.
Where I need work is my hands on blitzes, using better moves that will allow me to get to the QB quicker.
You and Christian Kuntz were quite the duo last season. You led the team and finished 5th in the NEC in tackles (90), and Christian won his second NEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Are you looking forward to picking up where he left off as the leader of the Dukes’ defense?
Playing alongside Christian was a lot of fun, and it always hurts to lose a great player like him. But I am excited to step up and help develop this young defense into a dominant one.
In Week 3, you had a pick six that completed a comeback win against Dayton. That play was voted FCS Play of the Week. What can you tell me about that play? It almost looked like you recognized something mid-play and bailed on your assignment in order to get to the correct spot.
I originally read run, but after I realized it was play action, I was supposed to bail to the flat. As I was dropping, I saw that the QB had his eyes locked on the crosser from the opposite side. So I just snuck under the throw and was fortunate to have some good blocking by my teammates.
I was ready to give you all of the credit on that run back but when you credited your blockers, I couldn’t help but notice 36 with a de-cleater right after your interception. Be honest, did your return or that block get the most oooohs and aaaaahs in the film room?
It was definitely the block. #36, Andy Struttmann, is my roommate and I know as soon as he saw I had the ball he was gonna kill-shot someone. The best part on film is him tackling me in the end zone and him punching me repeatedly, it was hilarious.
I noticed in your highlight film that you are wearing white, long-sleeves under your jersey in every single clip. What’s that about?
[Haha] I started wearing the white, long-sleeves because we had a cold game my junior year of high school. I thought the baggy look had some swag to it and I ended up with 20 tackles in that game. I’ve worn the long sleeves ever since. We played down in Jacksonville earlier this year and it was like 95 degrees and I still had them on.
Last question, if you could take the field with any player, past or present, whom would it be and why?
It would definitely be to play behind anyone of the Steelers from the Steel Curtain of the 70’s. They were a feared group and took the attention of the Oline which allowed the linebackers to have more freedom.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. Good luck in 2017 as you pursue your third straight NEC championship and best of luck in your path to the 2018 NFL Draft.
As the senior leader, out of Christian Kuntz shadow, Carter Henderson is a promising 2018 NFL Draft prospect. Take a minute and check out his 2016 highlights below.