Henderson Not Signing May Not Be Bad Sign for USC
"Aw, I don't know," Sean Henderson replied as he intensely scanned the screen of his cell phone. "Way too many to count."
On a day that brought so much peace and, at last, resolution to the nation's top high school seniors, their parents, and the highest-profile college coaches in the nation, the family of America's most coveted recruit found no such solace. Hours after appearing on the CBS College Sports Network to announce that he had chosen USC, offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson remained a free agent. The 6-foot-8, 330-pound tackle from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn., had not yet, according to a New York Times report, signed his letter of intent.
According to Thayer Evans of the New York Times, who spent the past week shadowing the Henderson family (Seantrel, his father Sean and mother Bree Jasper), the Hendersons wanted to wait until after USC appears before an NCAA infractions committee on Feb. 19-21 in Tempe, Ariz. -- it will be four-to-six weeks after the hearing before a punishment, if any, is levied against the Trojans.
Thus, for a third straight year, the nation's most highly coveted (or at least hyped) prep football player allowed Signing Day to come and go without penning his autograph on a letter of intent. Two years ago it was quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who just seemed profoundly undecided between Ohio State and Oregon (he chose the Buckeyes).
Last year it was tailback Bryce Brown, a Kansan with an "advisor" who appeared to be attempting to leverage his client's talent for his own gain (Brown chose Tennessee, whose coach, Lane Kiffin, is now the head man at USC). And now it is Henderson, whom scouts regard as perhaps the most phenomenal high school talent at the position immortalized by "The Blind Side" since Orlando Pace.
I spent Wednesday afternoon with the Hendersons. Bowling. And noshing. When I left them at CBS' Fieldhouse Studios at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, they were happily scarfing down chicken wings and nachos. Seantrel was chatting with his girlfriend of four years, Sheri Houston. Sean had his ear glued to the cell phone. Bree was noting that Seantrel has a cousin who is a freshman at USC and that the family was looking forward to house-hunting in L.A.
Asked about plans for Wednesday evening, Bree replied, "I don't know where we're going, I just know that we're going to be celebrating."
At one point a CBS employee offered the Hendersons the use of a fax machine if they wanted to send in the letter of intent. They declined, although at the time, it only seemed that they were preoccupied with snacking and socializing.
Certainly, the timing is enigmatic. The date of the NCAA infractions hearing, and the possible consequences for USC, has been public knowledge for at least a month. Did some other coach finally persuade Sean Henderson that he might want to look before his son leaps to Troy? Why did the family bother to travel to New York City mid-week in February to announce a decision on national television and then fail to carry through on signing the national letter of intent? Have they been seduced by all of the attention or did they just fail to appreciate the gravity of USC's potential problems with the NCAA?
Every school in the nation will be willing to wait for Seantrel Henderson no matter how late he waits to sign. He has until April 1 to sign a national letter of intent, but even if he remains unsigned after that date, chances are he'd be able to procure a scholarship from most any school at which he opts to matriculate.
Meanwhile, the soap opera will continue. The schools that were also in the running, according to the Hendersons, when Signing Day began (Florida, Miami, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State) will remain so. Henderson had said on Wednesday, noting the talent that had signed at USC and Florida, that he expected the Trojans and Gators to play for the national championship the next few years. Also on Wednesday, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, a former Cretin-Derham teammate of Henderson's, texted him the following advice: "Beware of fake coaches" and "Do what you want to do."