Seantrel Henderson (and Dad) Will Get Their Kicks on the Other Coast
He stands 6-foot-8, is most likely headed to Miami and he already participated in a nationally televised program to announce where he was headed five months ago.
LeBron James, meet Seantrel Henderson.
Last February 3, Henderson, a 340ish-pound prep offensive tackle from St. Paul, Minn., appeared live on CBS College Sports Television to announce he'd be attending the University of Southern California. Arguably the most sought-after prospect in the 2010 class, Henderson selected a USC cap in that now cliché shell-game fashion over other ball caps bearing the colors of Miami, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
At the time, Henderson extolled the virtues of living in a land devoid of snow plows. "It's gonna be 75 degrees every day," Henderson told FanHouse, most likely parroting the lines newly installed USC head coach Lane Kiffin had fed him. "I'm never going to wear sweatpants again. And I've never been to the ocean."
Of course, similar climactic qualities exist in Coral Gables, where six of the top offensive recruits in the ESPN 150 signed national letters of intent to play for Randy Shannon (pictured) and the Miami Hurricanes on that same day. In fact, according to Keith Arnold of NBCSports.com (himself a Twin Cities native), Henderson had texted his high school basketball coach a simple one-word message ("MIAMI") just moments before publicly announcing USC.
So what gave? How did Henderson initially end up in the Southland, and how come he is now most likely headed to South Beach?
First, as alluded to above, there was the weather. Then one must factor in the ineffable (although, for many sportswriters, the better term is "inexplicable") recruiting charms of Kiffin and his hard-sell sidekick, Ed Orgeron. Say what you will about Kiffin, but in consecutive years -- and without ever having coached a team to a winning record -- he landed arguably the nation's most coveted recruit (in 2009, it was running back Bryce Brown who chose Tennessee, Kiffin's former place of employ).
Then too, there was Seantrel's hustle-and-flow pops, Sean, who seemed to reappear in his son's life at about the same time Seantrel began making headlines with his behemoth deeds at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, which also produced athletic prodigies such as All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and current Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd. Sean, who appears to be in his late thirties, is an aspiring rapper and the plan was for the entire Henderson clan (Sean, Seantrel, and Seantrel's mother, Bree Jasper) to relocate to the 310/323/818 area codes.
This was a family decision. The website Every Day Should Be Saturday, which traffics in snark, reported "Seantrel Henderson's Father Signs With USC; Son to Follow."
There was only one problem: a nasty little upcoming three-day hearing between the NCAA and USC that would take place in Tempe, Ariz., and could lead to serious sanctions against the Trojans. Henderson, it should be noted, did not sign his letter of intent on the day that he selected USC, but neither did he seem to waver in his decision. In late March, after the hearings had taken place but before any NCAA penalties had been announced, Sean Henderson told the New York Times, "It is USC. There's no doubts. A hundred thousand, trillion percent, it's USC. It's 100 percent."
The following day, Seantrel Henderson signed his national letter of intent with USC.
Three and a half months later, the Trojans gave Henderson his unconditional release from that binding contract. NCAA sanctions that included two years of no bowl games and 10 forfeited scholarships per season for the upcoming three seasons no doubt had something to do with it. And that is why on the 4th of July weekend, Seantrel Henderson, according to reports, was down in Miami -- a school that, like USC, is renowned for its fair weather and fair-haired maidens.
This may all be for the best: one Hollywood Henderson is more than enough for big-time football to have endured.
And while USC may have had Snoop Dogg attend many a practice, The U is the original rap-infused football program. During the Canes' original heyday in the 1980s, it was Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew (right) who served as Miami's unofficial social chairman. Or did you not see ESPN's outstanding documentary, part of its "30 in 30" series, "The U," last autumn?
Should Henderson sign with Miami -- and he could do so even before LeBron James announces tonight that he, too, is en route to south Florida -- he will be in a wonderful situation. Shannon is an alum from that Eighties era, but he also runs a disciplined program. Junior quarterback Jacory Harris has emerged as a charismatic figure (although, yet again, with Christian Ponder returning to Florida State, he is not the Sunshine State's most likely Heisman candidate at QB) for a team that went 9-4 last season. Three starters on the offensive line must be replaced -- easily, this is the Canes' most vulnerable position from a depth standpoint.
Miami is almost a slam-dunk for Sean (or Seantrel). True, if he were to remain home in Minnesota, he could become the state's largest legend, literally and figuratively, since Paul Bunyan. If he were to select Ohio State, he'd be clearing space for junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who at last appeared to come into his own during last January's Rose Bowl win over Oregon. Pryor, the crown jewel of the 2008 recruiting class who also waited more than a month to sign his national letter of intent, would welcome Henderson to a program that most prognosticators rank no lower than third heading into August practice.
On the downside, all five Buckeye O-line starters return this fall. One wonders how much patience Sean/Seantrel might have with that situation.
Then there is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish offer maximum exposure (though it should be noted that Miami has sent as many players into the NFL in the past decade as anyone), a fresh look in new coach Brian Kelly and two bona fide future NFL picks currently playing O-line in guards Trevor Robinson and Chris Stewart.
The Irish are thin at the tackle position, though. They signed perhaps the top offensive lineman in the nation after Henderson last February in 6-8, 330-pound Matt James of Cincinnati, but James died in early April after falling from a fifth-story hotel balcony in Panama City, Fla. The tragedy of James' death overwhelms any chatter of depth charts, etc., but there is no denying that Henderson would fill a huge void, in every possible way, were he to don a gold helmet in August.
That is highly unlikely.
It is difficult to imagine Seantrel Henderson headed to any campus that his father is not also juiced about, in terms of residing nearby himself. Moreover, Henderson happens to consider former Miami lineman Bryant McKinnie, an Outland Trophy winner who never allowed a sack his entire collegiate career, a role model. And why not? The two offensive tackles are the same size (6-8, 330 to 340 pounds depending on the hour) and McKinnie has spent his entire NFL career in the service of Henderson's hometown team, the Minnesota Vikings.
It could happen as early as Thursday. Although, given Sean Henderson's penchant for promotion -- he appeared on set with his son when Seantrel announced for USC last winter -- the Hendersons may wait a day or two until the LeBron glare has faded.
Meanwhile, if you visit the Hurricanes' website today, you will see that Shannon is welcoming 17 members of the incoming freshman class to campus this week as they begin summer school and, more importantly, voluntary summer workouts. Will he soon be welcoming an 18th freshman to Coral Gables?
The only surer thing is that LeBron James will be playing for an Eastern Conference franchise come November.