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April 16, 2014

Matt Henderson determined to return to form

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It was a rivalry game. One that Neptune Beach Fletcher RB Matt Henderson was fired up to be a part of.

It was an intense battle with Sandalwood, the 'across the ditch' rival. The Saints and Senators were battling in a closely-contested and heated battle.

But Henderson (5-foot-7, 176 pounds) wouldn't even finish the half.

September 13, 2013, Henderson suffered a freak, nearly-catastrophic injury that ended his season, and could have ended his career.

"Kind of ironic, it happened on a Friday the 13th," said Henderson. "I was running down the sideline and I dislocated my hip, fractured my pelvis and also tore my ankle up."

"The process happened, my ankle went out first, and due to my ankle going out, the hip followed along with it. Four days after it, I had surgery on my hip. They set it back in place and I was bed-ridden for about a week or two."

"I was on crutches for about another two months," Henderson continued. "The funny part about this is that we never noticed the ankle. The whole time I was on crutches and I hadn't put any pressure on my ankle or been walking around. About three months after the hip surgery when I was starting to walk around without crutches, I noticed my ankle was hurting."

Back under the knife, Henderson endured another surgery in December. One that repaired his ankle and began yet another rehab.

"That put me out for another nine weeks," Henderson said. "About the start of February I began doing physical therapy for my hip and ankle."

As spring practice draws closer for the Senators, Henderson is determined to play this fall and wants to show everyone that he's recovered.

"I've been cleared to squat, to sprint, to run and do everything but full contact," Henderson said. "I've been in physical therapy for four days a week since February. I still can't run full speed yet, but I'll be back by August."

Henderson has been a running back on a high school level since the eighth grade, starting for the Episcopal School of Jacksonville for two years before transferring to Fletcher.

"I'm 100 percent confident that I'll be back come August," Henderson said. "So does my doctor, (Kevin Murphy from Heekin Orthopedic in Jacksonville). He doesn't expect me to be 100 percent until about July."

"I'm cleared to do some 7-on-7 drills," Henderson said. "It kind of stinks for the recruiting process, because I'm having to sit an entire year."

Henderson was attracting several looks from schools, but that has all but come to a halt.

"Before the injury, I was talking to a few schools," Henderson said. "The school I was talking to the most was Duke. Georgia Southern and Florida International were interested as well.

Schools now - well, my coaches are trying to put the word out but my game film from last year only includes three games."

"But my coaches are talking to schools like Harvard, Princeton, a bunch of Ivy League schools," Henderson said. "They (the coaches) are working hard to get me noticed."

For Henderson, who has been playing football since he was in 4th grade, it's been a frustrating, long and tedious process.

"I'll be one of those 'under the radar kids'," said Henderson. "It's kind of frustrating, I'm so hungry to play. I've sat so long and I've just been cleared. I can't go as fast as I used to and it's a little frustrating to know that I've got a long way to go before I can come out in August and show everybody that I've still got a little something."

"I just can't wait until that day gets here."



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