- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

It was a sweet repeat for E.J. Henderson.

The Maryland linebacker was named first-team All-American yesterday by the Associated Press for a second straight season. He was the only All-American to repeat from last season, when he became the Terrapins' first player to earn the honor since 1974.

"It is especially satisfying doing this coming off an injury," said Henderson, who had back surgery in April. "I didn't want to fall off. This makes me feel like people still see me as one of the best players in the country."

It was the latest postseason accolade for the senior from Aberdeen, Md., who won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker last week and also scored the Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player. The two-time ACC defensive player of the year is the seventh Maryland player to be first-team All-American and the third to repeat along with guard Bob Ward (1950, '51) and defensive tackle Randy White (1973, '74).

Among the other top names on the first-team defense were end Terrell Suggs of Arizona State and tackle Rien Long of Washington State. Suggs, with an NCAA-record 22 sacks, won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman. Long, with 13 sacks, took the Outland Trophy as the top interior lineman.

Henderson, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound middle linebacker, has led Maryland to back-to-back 10-win seasons. The 20th-ranked Terps (10-3) meet Tennessee in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta.

There were concerns about how effective he could be after surgery forced him to miss spring practice. He had a relatively slow start before again becoming the disruptive force that placed him in the national spotlight. Henderson tied his career high of 19 tackles in the regular-season finale win over Wake Forest and averaged 12.5 tackles a game for the season.

"I probably had doubt, but E.J. didn't have any," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Henderson's rapid recovery. "He's been the mainstay of our defense, the leader of our defense. He's meant a tremendous amount to our program, helping us re-establish a winning tradition here. I would say it really has to be credited to E.J.'s performance over the last two years."

Henderson admitted having passing concerns whether he could bounce back after the offseason operation, but he felt healthy after the preseason and better as the season progressed. The All-American honor was the latest achievement to show the work was worth it.

"All the rehabbing and everything paid off," he said. "I had a great season. This says a lot about me and my teammates."

Henderson was also a finalist for the Lombardi (top lineman) and Nagurski (another top defensive player) awards. By winning the Bednarik and Butkus, he became the first Maryland player to earn a major national award since White garnered the Outland and Lombardi in 1974. Henderson's defensive domination often draws comparison to White, the Dallas Cowboys great who many feel was the greatest defensive player ever to suit up in the ACC.

"That's outstanding," Henderson said. "Just to be mentioned with his name and all he accomplished is great."

Ohio State had the most players selected to the 25-man team with three: strong safety Mike Doss, linebacker Matt Wilhelm and kicker Mike Nugent. And when the Buckeyes line up to play top-ranked Miami for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, they will face two All-Americans tailback Willis McGahee and center Brett Romberg.

Southern California's Carson Palmer followed up his Heisman Trophy win with his selection as the All-American quarterback.

Joining McGahee in the backfield was record-breaking Larry Johnson of Penn State.

Cornerback Shane Walton gave Notre Dame its first All-American since 1993, when offensive tackle Aaron Taylor made it.

Charles Rogers of Michigan State and Reggie Williams of Washington were the wide receivers. Rogers caught a school-record 68 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Williams had 89 catches for 1,390 yards and 11 TDs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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