On an honor roll

William Henderson is making up for lost time when it comes to earning accolades.

A few weeks after being selected to his first NFC Pro Bowl squad, the ageless, 10-year veteran fullback was named to the first team of The Associated Press's prestigious All-Pro team for the first time in his career.

"This is a little bigger deal than the Pro Bowl," Henderson said. "I'm kind of blown away to be honest with you. This was nothing I was expecting to be closely or remotely on schedule to earn or be granted the honor of receiving.

"I'm a grunt workhorse, that's the way I look at it. That's what I do and I accepted that role a long time ago. I'm not expecting to get any accolades when I go out there."

Henderson is used to the others getting the accolades. Henderson paved the way for Ahman Green's fifth consecutive season of 1,000 yards rushing. Before that, Henderson led the way for Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens.

It wasn't supposed to be this way for Henderson. At least not at this stage of his career. The Packers signed Nick Luchey two years ago with the clear intention of making him the fullback of the future. Luchey was given a $6 million signing bonus and has been anything but a disappointment. Henderson, however, simply is defying logic by staying on top of his game at one of the sport's most violent positions.

"I have to go back and start with giving respect and gratitude to my coaching staff for just keeping me around," Henderson said. "They could have let me go and said I was too old and written me off because I think people would have just let it go by the wayside: 10-year vet who hadn't gotten those types of accolades before. I could have faded away and nobody would have questioned. But they felt that I had an ability to help this team out in whatever shape or form and I've just tried to go out and play consistent football."

Henderson, a model citizen off the field and perhaps the team's hardest worker during the off-season, has seen his role in the offense grow this season. While he hasn't carried the ball in more than two seasons, his 34 catches were his most since 1999 and his three touchdown receptions matched a career high.

"Certainly, he's been highlighted in our offense a lot this year, particularly in the passing game and has been very productive," coach Mike Sherman said. "I don't know if there's a fullback out there that has the versatility of a William Henderson where he can block and catch and do all that we ask him to do."

Henderson, a stalwart on special teams, is a perfect role model for the team's younger players. That was evident after Henderson reeled in a 38-yard touchdown reception Sunday at Chicago.

"After 10 years in this league, the other day he scores that touchdown against the Bears and immediately I was trying to get a replacement for him on that kickoff coverage unit and I had someone all ready to go and he'd have no part of it," Sherman recalled.

"He wanted to be available to run down on that kickoff. He teaches great lessons to these young kids every day."

Henderson has played less this season than in seasons past, especially before Luchey injured his shoulder at midseason. By playing less, Henderson is playing better.

"Well, I think Luchey may have been a motivational factor at one point, but in reality it's allowed William in his 10th year to be healthier at end of season," Sherman said.

"We basically for a long time just had one true fullback on the team and so he would bear the brunt of all the hits every time Ahman Green carried the ball or Dorsey Levens. I mean, he was the lead blocker.

"So, in many respects, Luchey's allowed him an opportunity to be healthier throughout the course of the season. But I do believe that some of the competitiveness did come out. He had a great camp that year I remember when Luchey came in a year ago and wasn't about to give up his spot readily."

Henderson agrees, but only to a point. Being a father is what drives Henderson more than anything these days.

"That's my biggest motivation is being the best father for him and that means leaving a legacy in football in how I played," Henderson said. "I want him to be able to say, 'Yeah, my Dad did this, but that wasn't what my Dad was all about. He was about being a good father first and foremost and being a good community person.' My worth isn't going to be based on how much money I've made or how many honors I got playing sports. My legacy's going to be him."

— Other Packers earning All-Pro votes were wide receiver Javon Walker (two to finish in a tie for fifth), tackle Chad Clifton (four, sixth), guard Marco Rivera (six, fifth) and guard Mike Wahle (two, tie for seventh).

Here is the first team of The Associated Press' 2004 NFL All-Pro Team, which was selected by a national panel of media members.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis.

Running Backs: Curtis Martin, NY Jets, LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego.

Fullback: William Henderson, Green Bay.

Tight End: Antonio Gates, San Diego.

Wide Receivers: Terrell Owens, Philadelphia, Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina.

Tackles: Walter Jones, Seattle, Willie Anderson, Cincinnati, and William Roaf, Kansas City.

Guards: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh, Brian Waters, Kansas City.

Center: Jeff Hartings, Pittsburgh.

Placekicker: Adam Vinatieri, New England.

Kick Returner: Eddie Drummond, Detroit.

DEFENSE

Ends: Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis, Julius Peppers, Carolina.

Tackles: Kevin Williams, Minnesota; Richard Seymour, New England.

Outside Linebackers: Takeo Spikes, Buffalo, Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay.

Inside Linebacker: James Farrior, Pittsburgh, Ray Lewis, Baltimore.

Cornerbacks: Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay, Champ Bailey, Denver, and Lito Sheppard, Philadelphia.

Safeties: Ed Reed, Baltimore, Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia.

Punter: Shane Lechler, Oakland.


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