- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

It was just three games into his junior season when Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson decided what his future would hold.

He waited until yesterday to share his choice to enter the NFL Draft.

“I started to feel everything was clicking and that everything was making sense out there mentally and physically,” Henderson said. “I felt I was out there and I was able to do a lot of different things. I really felt confident in my game, and I really felt there wasn’t much I couldn’t do. When I started feeling like that, I kind of knew I was ready to take the next step.”

The announcement was hardly a surprise. Henderson finished second in the ACC in total tackles during the regular season despite missing one game with a knee injury. He earned All-ACC honors this fall, as well as his degree.

Coach Ralph Friedgen said last week he believed Henderson would depart, a decision Henderson finalized five days after the Terrapins completed a 6-7 season with a 21-14 loss to Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl.

Henderson played only two years, though he had 133 tackles in a 2007 season marked by several nagging injuries. Damage to three ligaments in his left knee cost him a game, and he did not practice the final three weeks of the regular season after hurting his back.

But Henderson, who missed his redshirt freshman season in 2005 with an ACL tear, downplayed the importance of injuries in his decision. Instead, he pointed to the third-round grade he received from the NFL’s draft advisory board.

“I kind of expected something around that because they grade down,” said Henderson, who signed with agent Brian Mackler and will begin training today. “They give out a lower grade than what they really have sometimes because they don’t want to be held liable if somebody comes out based totally on their grade and they may get drafted different than what they expected to get drafted.”

Henderson follows his older brother E.J., who won the Butkus Award in 2002 at Maryland, into the pros. E.J. Henderson, a linebacker with the Minnesota Vikings, played four seasons for the Terps.

Erin Henderson, though, said he knew by midseason it would take a serious injury to keep him at Maryland and that he was “just ready to go” after averaging 11.1 tackles as a junior.

“I know it’s going to be more stressful at the next level, but just going to class every day and worrying about this and worrying about that, it just wears on you,” Henderson said. “But at least when I deal with all the stressful stuff I have to deal with next year, I’ll have some money in my pocket to make me feel a little bit better.”

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