HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 28: Justin Henderson #33 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs rushes past Trey Schuman #7 of the Rice Owls during the second quarter at Rice Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Justin Henderson’s path to the NFL Draft featured a handful of twists and turns, but he’s still about to reach his destination.
After a great career at Lake Wales High School, Henderson took his talents to Coffeyville Community College. It wasn’t necessarily his first choice, but he took advantage of the opportunity and played his way to an offer from Louisiana Tech.
In his first season with the Bulldogs, he saw limited action. However, he was promoted to the top of the depth chart in 2019 and immediately proved that he can handle a larger workload.
Henderson finished the 2019 season with 1,062 rushing yards, 212 receiving yards and 16 total touchdowns. He received All-Conference USA honors and was named the Independence Bowl Outstanding Offensive Player.
Though his 2020 numbers weren’t as impressive, Henderson caught NFL scouts’ attention at his pro day earlier this year. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds and posted 26 reps on the bench press.
We sat down with Justin Henderson to discuss his long journey from college to the pros, his favorite moment at Louisiana Tech, what he’ll bring to an NFL roster and much more.
The Spun: How has this entire journey been for you?
Justin Henderson: Out of high school, I was highly recruited but I didn’t have the grades. Instead of going to a JUCO, I went to a prep school in Massachusetts. I was there for like six months and almost had an offer from Virginia Tech. The whole coaching staff left and that’s when Memphis’ head coach went to Virginia Tech, so I didn’t have an offer there. My high school coach reached out to some JUCOs for me, and at the time I didn’t know what a JUCO was at the time. I went to Coffeyville and played there for one year. I went for 1,000 rushing yards there. Then I took a visit to Louisiana Tech and ended up committing right on the spot. It’s been a journey, man.
The Spun: You had a breakout season in 2019. What led to that production?
JH: All the naysayers telling me I’m not ready to be a feature back. I knew what I can do, so I took it to another level and came out with a really productive season.
The Spun: What do you think you showed on tape?
JH: I showed them that I can catch because that year I had over 200 receiving yards. I showed I can pass block, I can break out of my routes and I have speed. I showed a lot of things to the point where scouts can watch my tape and say ‘He could be an asset to our team.’
The Spun: How do you think you performed at your pro day?
JH: Coming into my pro day, I wanted to show that I’m chiseled and look good. I did what I was supposed to do. The personnel there thought I was going to have a slower time for the 40-yard dash than what I put up. To be honest, right now, I have the most bench press reps for this running back class with 26. So I got the most reps on the bench press and my position drills went very well.
The Spun: What was your favorite moment at Louisiana Tech?
JH: I’m from Florida, born and raised. I can honestly say I’m undefeated against very Florida team I played. When we played against Miami in the Walk On’s Independence Bowl in 2019, I was the MVP of that game. That was one of the most special moments in my life. Miami showed interest in high school, but it never pulled the trigger. So this was somewhat like a personal game.
The Spun: Which running backs do you like to watch on film?
JH: I look at Frank Gore and Mark Ingram a lot. They’re more of a low, stocky type of running back. I also go back to watch Ricky Williams too. I look at a variety of running backs. I even watch guys like Saquon Barkley too.
The Spun: How do you think you’ll feel if you hear your name called during the draft?
JH: Like I said, this journey has been a long ride. Just getting drafted and signing an NFL contract would be a very emotional day. I know what I had to go through to get to where I’m at, so I’ll be emotional for sure.
The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Justin Henderson?
JH: I’m a team player. Anything a coach tells me what to do, I’ll do it. If you tell me to pass block, I’ll do it. If you tell me to go go catch the ball, I’ll do it. My greatest asset is being a good teammate.
Henderson could hear his name called on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.