De’Angelo Henderson never went to a youth football camp.
Growing up, the Summerville native’s family couldn’t afford that type of training. That’s why the New York Jets running back committed to hosting a free camp at Brooks Stadium last weekend. Nearly 30 kids showed up on Saturday morning to learn from Coastal Carolina’s all-time leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and points scored.
“This weekend has really been important for me,” Henderson said. “I did not have the opportunity to go to camps. My family didn’t have the funds to get it, so that is why I host a free youth camp for the kids in the community. Horry County treated me good when I got here and I want to make sure I pay my respects back to it.”
Henderson played for the Chanticleers from 2013 to 2016, rushing for 4,635 yards, scoring 64 touchdowns and setting the NCAA Division I record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown (35 games). During his 2015 season, Henderson was named the 2015 Big South Offensive Player of the Year.
While coaches and players praised Henderson, NFL scouts questioned his abilities, labeling the 5-8 running back “too small” for the position. Henderson used those criticisms as teaching tools for his camp on Saturday.
“I want these kids to remember that they have to believe in themselves,” he said. “They are going to have a lot of critics, the good and the bad. The main thing I want them to know is that if they believe they can do it, then they can do it.”
Henderson was selected by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite a promising preseason, Henderson played in just five games throughout the 2017 season. He was waived by the Broncos in 2018 but eventually signed with the New York Jets’ practice squad. He finished the season with the Jets on their active roster and saw action in three games.
During his camp Saturday, Henderson told the kids that being waived reminded him of a valuable lesson from his mother.
“Sports do not last forever,” he said. “Sports are not guaranteed is what my mother taught me when I was a child, so it is very important to get your education.”
Henderson was joined at the camp by former Coastal teammates Devin Brown, Oshamar Abercrombie and Quinn Backus.
“Hop and I used to talk about things like this when we were roommates in college,” said Backus, who played linebacker for Coastal Carolina from 2011-2014,. “Being kids that came from nothing and then to be given the opportunity to do something like this is truly a blessing.”
Backus said the camp is a reflection of his former teammate’s character.
“[Henderson] is a living legend,” he said. “I am glad that he is here to represent Coastal in a positive way.”
Brown, who primarily returned kickoffs and punts for the Chanticleers from 2013-2016, said the decision to help out his former teammate was a “no brainer.”
“We always support Hop and what he is doing for all the kids in this area,” he said. “It’s great for these kids to come out and meet and learn from a current NFL player and have fun while doing it.”
Henderson now shifts his focus to the 2019 NFL season as training camp for the New York Jets kicks off on July 27. Despite having to play behind Le’Veon Bell, who signed with the Jets in March, Henderson hopes to make an impact.
“We all know that Le’Veon is the guy and that he will need a backup,” Henderson said. “I am beyond hyped for this year. I re-dedicated myself to my craft. I don’t want to say that I got side-tracked, but I had some personal things go on and it kind of distracted me a little bit.”
Henderson credits his 18-month old son with helping him get back on the right path.
“On my drive up here, I was a little emotional thinking about my son,” Henderson said. “I am having my own son come up with me to a youth football camp that I am hosting. While he’s not even two and doesn’t really know what’s going on, it was big deal for me because I didn’t have my father around and I didn’t have the opportunity to go to camps. So this moment really meant a lot to me.”