Following a prep career at Greenwood, S.C., that drew little attention and garnered one Division II offer, Brandon Henderson chose to continue to develop his talent on the junior college level for the next two seasons.
That decision, while proving to be anything but easy, would bring success for the formerly little-known defensive lineman.
Henderson's initial plan took him to the small town of Booneville, Miss., with the anticipation of playing for Northeast Mississippi Community College. He attempted to join the team in the spring of 2015, but had his hopes dashed with he was cut from the roster. Still determined, Henderson remained in Booneville, giving the team another shot during the summer, but was cut for a second time.
Many facing a similar situation may choose to give up the chase and be pleased that they gave their dream a serious try, rightfully so. Henderson wasn't ready to take that path. He packed up his gear and moved back closer to his home and enrolled at Georgia Military College, where he joined the team as a walk-on.
As a rookie, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Henderson cracked the defensive line rotation and registered three tackles for a loss and a sack. His quickness and length grabbed the attention of coaches making visits to the school to watch other prospects and interest quickly rose to a level that he had only previously dreamed about.
"Something I'm incredibly grateful to be a part of," Henderson said. "In high school I never really experienced it because I only had one Division II offer. Now that I'm in college and actually have the opportunity to be a part of a recruiting class it's an unbelievable experience. Something that a couple of years ago I didn't think I would ever be a part of."
With his sophomore season kicking off on Thursday night at Navarro College in Corsicana, Tex., the interest will continue to climb.
"It's getting better and better everyday," he said.
Henderson now holds nine scholarship offers, including Western Kentucky. Charlotte, East Carolina, Houston and Toledo are also among those that have extended offers. The list of schools now expressing an interest in Henderson is now quite lengthy, with Alabama, Miami, Iowa State, Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Missouri, NC State, Northern Illinois and South Florida among the ever-growing group.
WKU offered during the spring after visiting Georgia Military and forming a relationship. Henderson's first communication with WKU arrived soon after the Hilltoppers visit.
"They text me and said that they wish we could've met in person," he explained, adding, that "they eventually offered me saying how much they liked me."
Henderson's response was to immediately begin learning more about the Hilltoppers program.
"I know a decent amount about them," he said. "I try to learn as much as I can about any school that offers me. I'm still learning about them."
With nearly double-digit offers and rising interest, Henderson prefers to remain open and continue doing his research. He currently claims no favorites.
"I try not to hold one school over another and weigh out all of my options."
The feedback from the numerous coaches recruiting him varies, but his versatitilty is a common theme among them all.
"Some schools say different things," he told WKU Insider. "The most common thing they talk about is my ball get off and the fact they I can any position on the D-line."
Another aspect about Henderson that coaches must be attracted to is his determination. A success in the classroom at Georgia Military, where he's on the President's List, Henderson is driven to go from the relative unknown to among the nation's best.
When asked his goals for the upcoming season, he quickly rattled off, "to be an all American, stay on the Presidents List and be number one at my position in the nation, if not overall."
It's not just talk, either. It's been that drive that now, just one year removed from high school, has him position to be in the discussion. He also realizes the difficulty in reaching for such lofty goals.
"If it was easy it wouldn't be worth having," he said. "I always aim to be the best player on the field every time I step on it."