The big man on campus — perhaps the biggest man on campus — returned to the football practice field Monday, providing a lift to his University of Miami teammates and much-needed depth on the offensive line.
Despite his massive frame, 6-8 and 340-pound right tackle Seantrel Henderson looked leaner and more fit than he has since arriving on campus in 2010. He participated in blocking drills wearing shorts and no pads and ran from one drill to the next.
“It’s good to have him back,” UM coach Al Golden said of Henderson, who attended a friend’s funeral in his home of Minnesota and missed the first three days of practice. Henderson addressed his teammates Sunday night, and he spoke about dealing with the death of two friends back in Minnesota, one of an apparent suicide.
USA Today reported that Henderson’s uncle said Henderson “was distraught” over the July 24 shooting death of Jordan Hughes, a former AAU basketball teammate and close friend of Henderson’s — and then the subsequent suicide of friend Mandela Jackson.
“Police are saying it’s a murder-suicide,” Henderson’s uncle, Rene Pulley, told USA Today, “but we don’t really know what happened.”
His fellow Hurricanes were pleased to get him back and help shift his mind to the team.
“He said he couldn’t wait to get back because he knew he had some work to put in,” running back Eduardo Clements said.
“We didn’t really know the situation, but just hearing him talk, I feel like he’s ready to play,” he said.
Added receiver Kendal Thompkins: “Just to feel his presence again is a good feeling.”
One of the players for whom Henderson and his fellow linemen are blocking, Stephen Morris, seems to be emerging as the man to beat in the battle for starting quarterback.
“He’s emerged like 10 times as great as last year,” said receiver Phillip Dorsett, who also praised quarterback Ryan Williams and said “it’s going to be a great fight” for the starting spot. “[Morris] is just the leader of the team right now.
“… I’ve never seen somebody grow so much in one year. He’s taking that role, and he just does not want to lose.”
Morris said Monday that this is the time to exert that leadership role.
“There’s a time and place for everything,” Morris said. “When you’re on the field it’s time to work. When you’re in the locker room it’s time to have fun with your guys and make sure everybody’s on the same page. Right now my job is to really get this team ready for the season.”