One of the nation's premier defensive end prospects, Raymond Henderson, could not have asked for a better weekend in taking his official visit to Iowa City, as the Hawkeyes routed the Wisconsin Badgers to clinch a tie for the Big Ten Championship. The Scout.com US Army All-American selection offers his thoughts on the visit, including a key conversation he had with head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Raymond Henderson never received an offer from the in-state Wisconsin Badgers, and he waited all year to watch one of the programs he had long been considering, the Iowa Hawkeyes, give the Badgers all they could handle.
"Man, it was a perfect weekend for me to visit," Henderson said. "I spent the entire weekend with the coaches and the team, and just got a great overall feeling for what it would be like to be an Iowa Hawkeye."
Henderson started the weekend by arriving in town on Friday when he took a tour of Iowa's academic and football facilities with coaches Lester Erb and Ron Aiken and the other official visitor, Ryan Bain.
Then, that evening the group of four went to dinner at the Lone Star Steakhouse in Coralville.
"When I weighed myself last week, I was between 245 and 250," said Henderson. "When I got on the scale before I left Iowa City I weighed nearly 260. The food wasn't quite as good as what it was at LSU, but I can't complain with the shrimp and everything that I ate."
Despite filling himself full of food, Henderson still took the time to speak with the coaches during the meal.
"They told me that they really liked my hustle out on the field, and how I get after it on every down. They like the fact I would enter the program around 250 plus, and feel I could be in the mix to take over for the four departing seniors. Coach (Ron) Aiken told me that he likes to drop his ends back in coverage, and really I like how Iowa would take advantage of my versatility," remarked Henderson.
Henderson, Bain, and the coaches returned to the team hotel in Cedar Rapids on Friday evening where they took in team meetings, including watching some key defensive highlights from earlier in the year.
Henderson noted that Iowa's game preparation was so solid that he knew there was no possibility of a Hawkeye loss. That held true in what was a historic day in Kinnick Stadium.
"I've attended games at Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and LSU, and that was one of the wildest crowds I've ever seen," added Henderson, who will play against Hawkeye recruit Dan Doering in the Scout.com US Army All-American Game. "I really felt that I could vibe off the crowd, and that the crowd is able to vibe off the players. The fan support was excellent, and from what I saw when I pulled up with the team (on the team bus) before the game, I had fans chanting my name."
Henderson, who was hosted by Kenny Iwebema, also had a few key conversations with Hawkeye players.
"The players all told me it was a good school, and a great place to play football. I had known Abdul Hodge a bit from my brother in Cedar Falls, and I also got the chance to talk a lot with Damian Sims. He told me he had committed to Virginia Tech at first, but knew after visiting Iowa that was a better opportunity for him to come in and make a splash. It helped reinforce that Iowa will not be afraid to put me on the field if I can show that I'm ready to contribute," stated Henderson.
On Sunday morning, Henderson had a one on one meeting with head coach Kirk Ferentz.
"Like all the coaches, he told he wanted me at Iowa," continued Henderson. "He said he couldn't promise a Big Ten championship every year, but that they would be in contention while I am there. He asked what I was looking for in a school, and I responded with academics and fan base, and he felt Iowa fit those criteria perfectly. He told me to look out for the release during the week that he had signed a contract extension until 2012, and to ignore any rumors that he'd be coaching the Dolphins. He also told me they have the top strength coach in the country."
Henderson had one final question for Coach Ferentz:
"I asked him straight up if I came to Iowa if I would be taken care of while I was there. He told me to go talk with all the players because they were all brothers, and it is one big family there. It was reassuring in hearing it from a guy like him that I would part of the family," concluded Henderson.
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