Caleb Henderson’s time playing football with Lake Braddock may have come to an end with his team’s regional semifinal defeat against Westfield in November, but that wasn’t his last high school game. The Lake Braddock senior quarterback was in San Antonio last week for the 14th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a premier all-star game featuring 90 of the best prep players in the country.
Henderson’s performance in Saturday’s game at the Alamodome wasn’t one to remember, as he came away with just one completion on two pass attempts. His East team — which also featured DMV standouts Jessie Aniebonam (Good Counsel) and Demetrius Johnson (Annapolis Area Christian) — fell to the West 28-6 in front of 40,017 fans and an NBC television audience.
Still, the experience of the week as a whole meant more to Henderson than any stats.
“It was a huge honor,” Henderson said. “I was really happy I got the opportunity to be called an All-American with some of those players. It was just really exciting for me to go down to San Antonio and play in that game because I’ve seen them play ever since I was a little kid.”
Part of the experience included a New Year’s Day trip to a local children’s hospital, where players had the chance to lift some spirits. At the beginning of the tour, Henderson rose from his seat to follow his fellow players to the next room, but someone tugged at his shirt. A little girl named Yasmine, who had recently battled through chemotherapy, asked him to stay, so he remained with her for the rest of the tour.
“I’d never really gotten the opportunity to do something like that before,” Henderson said. “It just felt really good to brighten some of those kids’ days just by hanging out with them for a couple minutes. It was really rewarding.”
The week also gave Henderson the opportunity to strengthen his relationships with some fellow University of North Carolina commits. In addition to hanging out with kicker Freeman Jones, punter Corbin Daly and lineman Bentley Spain, Henderson spent time with running back Elijah Hood, a Charlotte native who was recently named the AP Player of the Year in North Carolina. Henderson and Hood could form an important partnership on the Tar Heel offense in the coming years.
Henderson plans to move down to Chapel Hill on June 29. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll redshirt his freshman year. With three-year starter Bryn Renner set to graduate this spring, it appears Henderson will enter an open competition for the starting quarterback job that will include junior Marquise Williams and sophomore Mitch Trubisky.
Last month UNC announced that offensive coordinator Blake Anderson was leaving the program to become the head coach at Arkansas State. Tight ends coach Walt Bell soon followed Anderson to become his assistant there.
“I knew Coach Anderson wasn’t going to be there long,” Henderson said. “I kind of wish I had the opportunity to be coached by him, but I knew he had aspirations of being a head coach. I didn’t make my decision on UNC based solely on him or Coach Bell. They’re both really good coaches and really good people, but they were a small factor in why I chose UNC.”