Fullback soaking up trip to 'paradise'

As if William Henderson didn't have to wait long enough for this honor. Packers coach Mike Sherman took a roundabout way of announcing his fullback's first nomination to the National Football League's annual Pro Bowl game.<p>

Shortly after the Packers finished a practice on the day that the squads were announced in late December, Sherman gathered the team inside the Don Hutson Center to read the names of the players who were nominated by players, fans and coaches to the all-star game. Henderson, who had been named an alternate fullback for the NFC team in four previous seasons, patiently listened.

"He (Sherman) called out all of the guys who have made it but he left me off the first time he ran through the list," Henderson recalled. "He said I had made it as an alternate, which I had been for the last four or five years. I was excited that I got that much respect. Then all of a sudden he came back and said "Ooops" I made a mistake and he said the first four letters of my name and Ahman Green and Donald Driver tackled me to the ground to celebrate. It's been a dream come true."

Henderson, who turns 34 on Feb. 19, just completed his 10th season in the league, all with Green Bay. In 2004 he broke Howard Griffith's NFL record among fullbacks by blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher in a seventh overall season. The University of North Carolina product has paved the way for such seasons for Green (2000-04) and Dorsey Levens (1997, '99).

Green finished with 1,163 rushing yards rushing on the season, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark for the fifth time, all with Henderson as his lead blocker.

More than anything, Henderson is a pro's pro. He is one of Green Bay's leaders on and off the field. He plays on a number of the Packers' special teams units and keeps himself in tip-top shape. Guard Marco Rivera, Green and wide receiver Javon Walker also will be playing in this Sunday's game in Honolulu, but everyone in the Packers' locker room was thrilled to see Henderson make the team. For many years Henderson was deserving to play in the Pro Bowl, but always was edged by Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott for the only fullback position open on the team.

"It is a pleasure to be here and actually I am a very humble guy, so I thank you all for welcoming me and my teammates to Hawaii. I am looking forward to going out and playing football and keeping it as simple as possible," Henderson told reporters late last week upon arriving in Honolulu. "I am a football player. I love the game and I love every aspect of it. I believe in going out and being part of a team. As Coach Mora sends us out next Sunday, we will go out and play football at its finest. We hope to represent the NFL and our family in a positive way. I make no big claims about it. I am a fullback. I run into brick walls and I do it wholeheartedly. I accept my role. However, if Coach Mora wants to give me a ball a couple of times, I don't mind carrying it from time to time (laughing). I believe in trying to help my team win, so I will be a blocking back or play special teams. When I go out there, I try and help the team be the best we can possible be.

"It is my tenth year and I can't think of a better time to be considered a rookie. This is my rookie season at the Pro Bowl and I am overjoyed. I have had some of the best people to precede me with Darryl Johnston, Larry Centers, Mike Alstott, and Fred Beasley. I have followed a great bunch of guys over here and I am just happy to come over and represent a small town called Chesterfield, VA, just south of Richmond and to play football like I learned it. I look forward to playing on Sunday."

Said Jim Mora, Jr., who will be coaching the NFC squad: "I just love to hear William talk about team, teammates and hard work. It is what you look for on leaders of your football team and he is truly deserving. I am just honored to have the chance to coach him. There are a lot of great, great players. When you hear a guy who stands up and is so gracious to be nominated, it kind of sinks in on why guys like him are playing in the Pro Bowl. It isn't just talent, there is a big thing called character and he has got it."

In between the practices and team meetings, Henderson will be soaking up the Hawaii sun, relishing his all-expenses-paid trip by the league.

"I will definitely be a tourist," Henderson said. "I have been to the islands, mostly in Maui. I always promised I wouldn't come to this island unless I was offered to come by the league with a Pro Bowl selection. It's been a long time, 10 years, battling. Now, I am going to be a tourist and a rookie. Trying to learn from veteran guys like Marco Rivera who has made several trips here and learn what I should and should not do. Learn not to give my room number out so people won't charge room service to my bill (laughing). I will keep my ears open and listen to every possible thing and try to get as many hints as to what I should do and not do. I am going to go to the North Shore and admire the waves and check out the mountain, volcanoes and shopping. This is going to be a place of paradise for me. I have invited several of my friends and family this week. A friend of mind is going to get married in elementary school. I am just looking forward to being here and being a part of such a prestigious event."

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