Miami Hurricanes’ Seantrel Henderson puts past behind, aims for NFL

Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson wants to use the Senior Bowl to showcase his physical gifts and address his past troubles.

01/22/2014 12:00 AM

09/08/2014 7:02 PM

Seantrel Henderson couldn’t hide even if he tried. At 6-7, 331 pounds, he’s one of the biggest guys in town.

So no, there’s no blending in for Henderson, the University of Miami offensive tackle who’s hoping for a shot in the NFL.

It’s not his style, anyway. When it comes to the biggest factor holding back his draft potential — character red flags — Henderson doesn’t shrink.

“I was partying a little bit too much at times,” Henderson said when asked to explain his three (at least) suspensions at UM.

“I had got into trouble a couple of times for marijuana. I just put all that behind me.”

Such candor is refreshing for anyone — let alone someone trying to make the NFL. “Honesty is key,” Henderson said, when asked why he elected to discuss his past trouble with drugs.

It’s not like those issues are a secret. They’re a real concern for scouts and decision-makers as they set their draft boards. Some teams take character red flags off their draft board altogether.

That’s why this week’s all-star showcase is so important. Of course, Henderson needs to prove he has the physical goods to play in the NFL. (Stephen Morris, Henderson’s teammate at both UM and the Senior Bowl, doesn’t think that’s a problem. “He’s one of those amazing athletes that when he gets his hands on you, the play’s over for you.”)

But Henderson also needs to prove to scouts and coaches that he has matured — with his deeds, not his words. This week’s all-star showcase is Step One.

Henderson’s pedigree is well-known. He picked UM out of St. Paul, Minn., where he was the USA Today High School Offensive Player of the Year. But in his four years on campus, Henderson had setback after setback: suspensions, homesickness, back surgery, a car accident and the deaths of a family member and close friend.

In January 2013, after realizing his draft projection had not lived up to the previous hype, Henderson announced he would remain at UM. “I do believe that I’m a potential first-rounder,” he said at the time.

He still believes it — even if draft experts see him as more of a third-day project.

“I want to be a starter and play in the NFL,” he said Tuesday.

Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout who’s now a draft analyst at NFL Network, said Henderson “looked the part” during his weigh-in.

But then came the inevitable caveat. “Talented player with off-field baggage,” Jeremiah said.

Henderson passed the eye test in other ways. He’s in the best shape of his life. He used to sport dreadlocks; now his hair is short.

And he’s saying all the right things.

Granted, he did the same in August, swearing he had turned over a new leaf. Two months later, he was suspended again for violating a team rule.

But Morris believes there truly is a new Henderson.

“From where he was, maturity-wise, his junior and sophomore years to the ability he showed on the field his senior year is a complete 180,” Morris said. “That’s going to keep going.”

Added Morris: “Unbelievable person. He’ll make you laugh all day. He’ll dance like crazy. He’s one of those guys that you want on your team. He’ll fight, really be in the trenches and fight with you.”

During the next four months, Henderson intends to prove that to all 32 NFL teams.

That’s why he plans to be on time to every meeting, work hard on every rep and answer any question that comes his way — either from teams or the media.

“I feel like just being honest with everybody and just let them know exactly what my problems were and that there are no longer any,” he said.

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