- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

The Maryland football team got good news yesterday because E.J. Henderson didn't get the positive feedback he was hoping for.
The All-American linebacker announced he will return to the Terrapins next year rather than leave early for the NFL. Many involved with the program thought it a foregone conclusion that Henderson would depart. But the ACC Player of the Year will be around next fall as a fifth-year senior.
"I thought he was gone too," wide receiver Scooter Monroe said. "He surprised us a pleasant surprise. I thought he would hit the road."
Henderson had been soliciting advice from NFL general managers about where he might be selected if he entered the draft, and those conversations weighed heavily on his decision. The deadline to declare for the NFL is today, and Henderson elected not to take a multi-million dollar gamble. He previously said he would return if not convinced he would be a first-round choice.
"I wasn't hearing first round all around, and I wasn't ready to take that chance," said Henderson, who was told he could go anywhere from late first round to late second round. "You never know. Some people might say second round, and you might not work out good [for individual teams or in the NFL combines], [so] you drop to the third round or fourth round. I really didn't want to go out like that."
The Aberdeen, Md., native is expected to get an insurance policy for next season in case of a major injury. In his usual low-key manner, Henderson said he did not want to finish his college career on the bitter note of the 56-23 loss to Florida in the Orange Bowl, and wants to enjoy college football and campus life for another year. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Henderson also cited as a factor the large number of underclassmen who already have entered the draft.
"I saw a lot of guys come out, a lot of skill positions that teams will probably take ahead of a linebacker," he said. "A lot of juniors leaving played a part."
Henderson is scheduled to graduate this spring with a degree in criminal justice, and could take graduate classes next fall.
His announcement was cause for celebration by assistant coaches and several players who watched his hastily called news conference.
"He's the best recruit we have this year," cracked defensive coordinator Gary Blackney.
At middle linebacker, Henderson will be the centerpiece of a defense that will return seven starters.
"We need him," Monroe said. "I would have like to have seen him go because I would have liked to see him in the NFL. I'm happy to see him back because we can definitely use him next year."
Henderson rose from obscurity to national prominence while leading Maryland to a 10-1 record, the ACC title and the school's first New Year's bowl in a quarter-century. He recorded 150 tackles including a program record of 28 for losses six sacks and was one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker. Henderson became Maryland's first Associated Press first-team All-American since Randy White in 1974.
Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, in Phoenix collecting the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation's top coach, said in a statement, "I am sure he will still be able to fulfill all of his aspirations and dreams in regard to a career in the NFL."
Henderson said it became clear this week that his best option was to stay. He made the final decision Tuesday or Wednesday that conditions were not ripe to pass on his final season for an uncertain draft status.
"I got a lot more information, sat down with my people and thought everything through," Henderson said. "I made the right decision. I thought long and hard about it, and came to a good conclusion that I have to live with. … I'm ready to move on. Life is normal again."

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