Erin Henderson saw his first meaningful playing time on Sunday. And recovered a fumble. On his first play on defense. That was caused by his brother, middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.
The confluence of events is a bit staggering, and Erin was still enjoying the moment a day after it happened.
"That was my first play that they threw me in there. … I seen the ball spit out and just get on it," Erin said, recounting the play. "Everybody was giving me a hard time, telling me I should have picked up and scored, but I was thinking, down that close to goal line, just get on it, cover it up and see what happens from there. You can see Jared (Allen) on tape trying to pull me. I didn't know if that was a Dolphins player tagging me down or what. I didn't hear any whistles so I just tried to crawl a little bit and see what happens. I figured, put the ball in the offense's hands and try to put it in."
As it turned out, Adrian Peterson's 1-yard plunge following Erin's fumble recovery was the only touchdown the Vikings scored Sunday in a 14-10 loss to Miami.
Adding to the excitement of Erin's biggest play of his three-year career was the fact that E.J. caused the fumble by Ricky Williams.
"We talked about it a little bit. It kind of took a while for it to set in on both of us," Erin said. "We were actually at his house after we left the game and we were watching some other games and we were just sitting there like, ‘Man, I wonder when was the last time that a brother forced a fumble that another brother recovered it, or if it ever happened.' It was kind of cool."
According to research done by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, there have been 333 sets of brother who have played pro football (AAFC, AFL and NFL), dating all the way back to 1920. (You remember, the Potsville Maroons, don't you?)
Of those 333, only 64 have played on the same team. But when it comes down to one brother causing a fumble that is recovered by another, well, that gets too specific for NFL statisticians, but it's a safe guess to say it's a rare occurrence and might even be the first time.
Erin has shown in preseason that he has a knack for the ball.
"That's something I try to pride myself on, just always being around the ball," he said. "You never know what's going to happen. You never know the way it's going to shake out, how the play is going to turn out. You just want to try to stay active and stay alive and be around the ball. You never know, somebody might slip out of a tackle, somebody might lose the ball, things might happen. But if you're running to the ball and you're able to cover it up, good things happen for the team."
Henderson has been mostly a special teams player in his first three seasons, but he earned the role of top backup among the outside linebackers this offseason, and when Ben Leber went out of Sunday's game with a lower back injury, Henderson was Erin on the spot.
"We always say Erin's around the ball. He finds a way to be around the football," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "E.J. knocked that ball out and Erin recovered it. It was at a good time because obviously that turnover cost them seven points."
Henderson led all Vikings linebackers and tied for 11th in the league with 20 tackles during the preseason. He added to his reputation for being around the ball with one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, including one that he ran in for a touchdown. After running into the end zone for that score, his excitement got the best of him. He stopped, chucked the ball into the upper rows of the lower deck and was later fined $5,000.
He decided to keep his most recent fumble recovery and save himself some money.
"I wrapped it up tight. I wasn't going to give that one away and I wasn't going to give any more money to the NFL either," he said. "I understand giving it to charity and everything, but I need that. So I'll hold onto that one for myself. … I'm excited to have that in the trophy case."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Erin Henderson finds a rare gem
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