By LARRY VAUGHT
Knowing he “executed” and did the best he could was all that mattered to Kentucky linebacker Khalid Henderson Friday.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, did 17 reps on the bench press and had a 30-inch vertical leap in front of scouts from 30 NFL teams, including Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, during UK’s Pro Day.
“I was hoping for a little better 40 time, but as long as I looked smooth is what matters,” he said. “I have worked on being light on my feet for all the drills.”
Henderson played in 47 games during his four years at UK and made 20 starts. He had 192 career tackles, including 13 for loss. He also caused four fumbles and intercepted two passes.
Yet he always seemed to be fighting for playing time and unable to solidify a regular spot.
“I had to fight my way through a lot. My background is a story in itself. It’s nothing I cannot handle,” Henderson said after finishing his workouts. There were times I cried and asked why was this happening to me. At the end of the day, I was put in position to be the man of the household and I took everything and just fought through it,” Henderson said.
He might have to do that again in the NFL because he’s likely to be undrafted and have to make a team as a rookie free agent. However, UK has three linebackers — Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan and Avery Williamson — now playing in the NFL.
“A lot of free agents have had good careers. Whatever team picks me, it will be a blessing,” he said. “I am going to fight through everything and not get distracted. I am going to take every bit of money and put in back to my health and save and save. Just give a team the best effort to win.
“I had a word with Wesley. He was up here watching me do drills and was giving me some pointers and telling me to do my best and put God first. I thank him for that and use him as an inspiration. It would mean a lot for me to make a roster, but then you have to work to stay there, too.”
He also thanked former linebacker coach Chuck Smith for giving him an opportunity to play as a freshman before Smith lost his job was head coach Joker Phillips was not retained.
“They didn’t really want a freshman back then to play right away but I was just thankful to get the opportunity and I made the best of it. He (Smith) put me in a position to succeed. Other people doubted me but he gave me an early edge on how it felt to play in the SEC,” Henderson said.
Henderson says he has no regrets about leaving his home state of Georgia to play at Kentucky and will always be a Wildcat.
“It has been a tough, tough road but I can’t shy away from it. I chose to come here and I am going to support here. My background story will be a lesson for others to learn and I will come back and tell my background story and the reality of it and how it really was and how you have to fight through everything. Nobody gives you anything,” he said.
“I am proud of my effort. Just getting knocked down so many times and fighting through it. I was given every excuse why I couldn’t play, why I couldn’t be the best, and I just proved them wrong and I want to keep proving people wrong. Some people are put in that position where you have to constantly prove people wrong and I like being in that position.”
Unlike some teammates, Henderson was never in trouble on or off the field for four years.
“You can ask anybody on the staff. I did everything right. Some people are just going to doubt you and doubt you,” he said. “You just have to be man enough to look inside yourself and know who you are. You can sit down and cry about it or you can fight through it. I chose to fight and that’s what I will do in the NFL.”