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TD was quite a rush for UM’s Henderson, family, teammates

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Teammates, including Khalid Hill (rear) and Henry Poggi (right) mob Bobby Henderson after he scored against Rutgers.

Ann Arbor – When Doug Henderson attended Michigan football games as a graduate student, he propped his young son on his shoulders and together they took it all in.

Two weeks ago at Rutgers, along with his wife, Jane, they sat in the stands and watched their son, Bobby, now 23, score for the Wolverines on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“It was surreal,” Doug Henderson said. “And when we met at the buses (after the game), you could tell five years of hard work coming out of him.”

Jane initially was shocked when Bobby scored.

“I was a little insane,” she said. “I think it was third-and-5 and I thought, ‘Oh please Lord, get a first down.’ I saw him go all the way in and thought, ‘What is he doing?’

“It’s been five years of his dream for that single moment. I think that’s why I was so emotional. Seeing all those boys rally and support him was almost as good as the touchdown.”

There were nine rushing touchdowns in the 78-0 rout of Rutgers, but it’s hard to imagine one more popular than Henderson’s. A fifth-year senior walk-on fullback, he now boasts more rushing yards than starting fullback Khalid Hill, who has seven touchdowns on 21 yards. Henderson has three carries for 26.

He is proud to announce he was the leading kick returner the first two weeks of the season, his good fortune since teams were choosing to stay away from Jabrill Peppers.

That makes no difference. This is a badge of honor.

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“I always pop open the program and it says, ‘Jabrill Peppers, Bobby Henderson,” said Henderson, who has two returns for 28 yards, while Peppers has three for 95. “I’m still second on kick returns.”

Doug, who worked for General Motors, moved his family, which includes their daughter, Stephanie, a sophomore at Indiana, multiple times because of transfers. Now retired, he and Jane are living in Ann Arbor and enjoying their son’s final season at Michigan. Bobby was born in Cincinnati, has lived three different times in Michigan and went to high school in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. He had about three dozen family, friends and former coaches at the Rutgers game.

They chanted “Hen-der-son” or “Thir-ty Se-ven” -- his jersey number -- and were so loud, his teammates on the sideline noticed.

Everyone noticed the touchdown.

“I was watching from the defensive sideline and his mom was in the first row right behind me,” said starting nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, one of Henderson’s roommates. “He scored, I threw my arms up, looked at his mom, she was speechless, she was going hysterical. I ran down to the 20-yard line and gave him a big hug.”

Offensive lineman Kyle Kalis said it was a moment everyone enjoyed.

"We’ve always talked about Henderson scoring a touchdown,” Kalis said. “Hendo is everyone’s really close friend. We’ve always rooted for Hendo as kind of like the ‘Rudy’ to get a touchdown, and when it finally happened, we were so pumped for him.

“I guarantee you 20 years from now at our reunion, he’ll be talking about that touchdown, as he should be. It was awesome to see him get that touchdown.”

Hill and Henry Poggi, also a fullback, swarmed Henderson in the end zone, as did receiver Moe Ways. He worked his way up the sideline, which was more like a receiving line.

Bobby Henderson dives into the end zone for his 13-yard TD run against Rutgers.

“When it got called in the huddle it was a fullback handoff play,” Henderson said. “I’ve practiced that play a lot. I like it. I knew I’d have an opportunity to break it for a few yards and once I saw it opened up, my first priority was to get past the O-line.

“It was awesome. Right afterward, it was obviously late in the game and it was all sealed up by then, but all my teammates were ecstatic. It shows how close you are. I’m a fifth-year guy, but I’ve really taken a liking to a lot of the younger guys. It’s a tight unit. It was fun.”

Coming out of high school, Henderson was recruited by Ivy League and Patriot League schools. His family had strong Michigan ties – his grandparents met there and his uncle played baseball for the Wolverines.

It became apparent to those close to Henderson that once he started getting interest from some Big Ten schools as a preferred walk-on, he needed to get in front of Michigan. Then-Michigan coach Brady Hoke invited him for a visit during the 2012 spring game. It was late in the recruiting process, and his friends already knew their plans.

“I knew if I went to Michigan, I would never look back and be like, ‘What if I was playing at the University of Pennsylvania,’” said Henderson, who ironically made his Penn visit a week after Ryan Glasgow. “But if I was playing there, would I look and be watching Michigan No. 3 in the nation and think, ‘Wow, I could have been on that team’?

“It’s ended up working out better than I could have imagined.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says it’s easy to understand why Henderson’s touchdown was so popular.

“Good teammate, good football player who everybody’s watched work at it, everybody’s watched him move up the depth chart and it’s just always great for morale when you see your teammate having success,” Harbaugh said. “You’re always happy for the other guy’s success – guy that has been a good teammate.”

Henderson has always had to fight depth at fullback, so special teams became his major emphasis. Depending on the week, he practices wherever he is needed, but he’s mostly with the top offensive units. Occasionally, as was the case few weeks ago in preparation for Wisconsin, he was on the scout team.

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His selflessness has been evident to teammates.

“(He’s) a guy who gives his heart and soul for the team, has done it for five seasons and doesn’t get the payoff on the field but is just as important to the team as the next guy because he gives a great look at fullback,” Glasgow said.

“He’s usually with the offense taking reps with the ones and twos during the week. But for Wisconsin week, we needed a good fullback on the scout team. He buckled down, came down to the scout team and did his job and blocked and threw some good blocks on (linebackers) Ben Gedeon, (Mike) McCray, Devin Bush and (Mike) Wroblewski they might not get from another guy. He really helped out with a power team like Wisconsin. He’s just a guy willing to do anything for the team so it was nice to see it pay off.”

The little boy who sat on his father’s shoulders at Michigan games hopes to have a career on Wall Street after he graduates. But that certainly can wait. After all, he has several weeks of college football left.

“Now, you walk into the (football) building, you just try not to take it for granted every day,” Henderson said.