It's something he's waited for all his life and it may be the last opportunity to realize the potential and promise that was predicted for him at an early age. The cousin of former Oak Ridge standout Mike Gipson, a defensive back who signed with Florida in 1997, and Vonze Henderson, who signed with Tennessee State University earlier this year, Henderson is hoping turn his athletic legacy (his father also played college basketball) into a football future.
He brings size, strength and 4.75 speed to the task, along with more than adequate athletic ability, but he'll also be learning in the chaos of competition which can be an unforgiving classroom.
"It's a big jump," he admitted. "I've got to work hard during the summer to make up for not playing much last season. Even though I didn't play as much last season you've still got to work to be ready when you're called on. You got to approach every game like it's your last."
Henderson has done a lot of work just to reach the starting gate. He brought his GPA up to a 2.8 after struggling his first two years at Oak Ridge. He's also spent the last year working in the weight room where he's made considerable gains. He currently benches 270, squats 400 and lifts 250 pounds in the power clean. He's lost 20 pounds since weighing 260 as a junior and is now adding bulk the right way.
"This season I should be at 250," he said. "During offseason workouts you got to lose the excess fat and put on muscle. I was weighing 260, but I got rid of the weight I didn't need."
Because he didn't get much playing time last season, he doesn't have much film to show college scouts. Therefore, he must make an early splash as a senior and a favorable impression at football camps. He looked like a tight end who could develop into a receiving threat at Tennessee's recent Seniors Camp and he aims to build on that experience over the summer.
"I don't have that much film on me so I've got a lot riding on my senior year," he said. "They can't go back and see my junior year because I only had a couple of games. I didn't get to start until the end of the season and I got to start at defensive end against Seiver County. My dad told me my time would come if I was humble, meek and patient. I just stuck in there and my time finally came."
Henderson, who is called Hen Dog by his teammates, likes both defense and offense and would be willing to play either position in college.
"I like defensive end because I can get to the ball," he said. "I like tight end, too. I'm looking to go the whole way so I'm just working hard and hope it will pay off during the season."
Oak Ridge went 9-2 last season and its reputation for producing prospects along with the tough Class 5A schedule the Wildcats play should provide Henderson adequate exposure.
He is currently hearing from several schools, but remains largely an unknown quantity at this point. He wants to study business in college with the goal of owning his own business one day. But the biggest day on the horizon for Henderson is Oak Ridge's opener.