Henderson: It's Better to Give than Receive

Much was made about the academic achievements of linebackers Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff, engineering majors the Giants drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds last month.

But Robert Henderson missed graduation from the University of Southern Mississippi to attend the team's rookie minicamp, too. Henderson has earned a recreation administration degree from the school, an education he wants to use by working with youngsters in his native Ponchatoula, La., about a half-hour north of New Orleans. Luckily, Ponchatoula, population 5,180, was hardly affected by Hurricane Katrina, but Henderson knows his hometown still needs his help.

"I want to help the community, give back to them," Henderson said. "My community, they took away the swimming pool when we were younger, so I would like to give the kids somewhere to swim, give them somewhere to play basketball when it's raining, just give them the type of recreation that the big cities have."

Henderson figures to learn much more about life in the big city as a rookie defensive end for the Giants, who could need their second sixth-round pick to contribute sooner rather than later.

If Michael Strahan retires and Osi Umenyiora's unhappiness with his contract results in a holdout, Henderson could become part of the Giants' defensive end rotation in training camp, even if they move Mathias Kiwanuka back to end. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Henderson is one of seven defensive ends on the Giants' roster, not including Kiwanuka, and two of those players are rookies who weren't drafted (Alabama's Wallace Gilberry and Tennessee's Antonio Reynolds).

Even if Strahan and Umenyiora are happy, healthy and ready to play come September, Henderson realizes fifth-round pick Kevin Boss and seventh-rounders Michael Johnson and Ahmad Bradshaw were all contributors as rookies last season and played in Super Bowl XLII.

"That's very encouraging," Henderson said. "That let's me know that I can come in and help the team out, if I put my mind to it and let my talent show. I'm not saying I can push somebody out of the way or anything like that, just that if I can come in and help the team out, that'll be a great accomplishment."

He is eager, too, to learn from Strahan, Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.

"They've been here, they've done it, they've won a championship," said Henderson, an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection following his senior season. "So they know the feeling and they can tell me what I can get out of different situations. That'll help me move on in this game."

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might move Henderson to defensive tackle in certain situations, much the way the Giants used Tuck during the Notre Dame alum's breakthrough season in 2007. Henderson played tackle in some goal-line situations at Southern Miss, but he was almost exclusively an end during his two-plus seasons as a starter for the Eagles. He didn't post staggering statistics (13.5 career sacks, seven forced fumbles in 30 starts), but the Giants liked his athleticism and his ability to play the run, in addition to getting to the quarterback.

"(He is) a developmental kind of a kid," general manager Jerry Reese said. "(He) ran real fast. So he has some things to develop that we liked about him. He is a big, thick guy with some athletic ability. We think he can develop into something for us in a year or so."


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