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By LARRY VAUGHT
The more freshman linebacker Khalid Henderson plays, the better he seems to be.
He had a career-high five tackles last week against Mississippi State and now has 12 tackles in Kentucky’s six games as he gets set for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference matchup at Arkansas. He’s one of 14 true freshmen that UK is playing and appreciates the opportunity he’s getting.
“I am kind of glad for the opportunity the freshman class is having. I just feel like we are going to get better. I feel like it is a big plus,” said Henderson. “It gives us the opportunity to improve our talent and ultimately improve the team as a whole. It is a little frustrating at times not to be winning, but you just have to roll with the punches and take each day as another opportunity to get better. Every game you get another chance to get out there and get a W (win).”
Henderson shared these other thoughts about his play and the Kentucky program.
Question: Are you still learning the defense?
Henderson: “Coach Minter’s defense is very complex I might say. Every guy has the same job and you all have to know it. When it all comes together in one piece, it works. Certain calls are left to certain people, so everybody has to know their job and do it. If somebody messes up, that’s what comes with it.”
Question: Has any one player taken you under his wing and helped you a lot?
Henderson: “Really, the big reason why I cam here was (linebacker) Avery Williamson. He is kind of like my big brother and is my big brother when it comes to the team. (Bud) Dupree also has a big impact on me, too. We all bond together and work together. They help me improve and I help them, too. Young guys can help older guys.”
Question: Do you ever feel the deck is just stacked against this team having to play so many young players?
Henderson: “We are so young, we just don’t worry about it. I feel like it is better to have young guys in there. Fresh legs and creates a more growing process for them and helps the older guys get rest. That feels like it is better for the game. Keeping putting in new packages, new packages and get rest for older guys and keep fresh legs in the game.”
Question: But how do you avoid being frustrated with a 1-5 record?
Henderson: “I feel like in a sense like a father does. You know how a father has bad times and keeps rolling with them. Some bills might not get paid, but you work hard to get to the next one. You have to keep moving on. It eats away at you, but you have to take it and learn. We all have winning backgrounds in some sense. I have never been used to losing. I just wish we could turn the season around and I am waiting for it to happen.”
Question: Why was Williamson such a big influence for you?
Henderson: “It started with my recruiting. Some guys you just hit it off with at first. That’s how it was when I first came around Avery. I talked to the guy and we just kind of had a good flow about things. We talked to each other and I got a good vibe from him.”
Question: Is he the biggest reason you are at Kentucky?
Henderson: “I would have to say yes. He is making my game better. He keeps an eye on me. He keeps me working hard. He keeps me focused in the weight room and classroom as well. He is just helping me take in this process because I am expecting so much so soon. He is just helping me not being stressed out and working hard and moving on to the next game.”
Question: Do you stress out after losses?
Henderson: “Certainly you can get stressed out, but you just have to take that day or night when it happened and not let it suck the life from you and keep improving.”
Question: Have you learned things from the way Williamson helped recruit you that you can use with future recruits?
Henderson: “Of course. I want to say he is my role model. I learn from him based on his mistakes and improvements. He wasn’t a five-star, four-star recruit coming in. He’s just improving his game. He is looked at as the face of the defense right now.”
Question: Would you enjoy hosting recruits and selling UK to them and why would you tell them to come to Kentucky?
Henderson: “Of course. I love that. I am going to give you the God-honest truth. I am going to tell you some things you may want to hear, some things you may not want to hear. I am going to tell you the truth because I don’t want you to come to a place and be miserable for four years. I want you to enjoy your time here at the University of Kentucky and enjoy being around a family atmosphere and a great college.”
Question: Would you tell recruits they can win at Kentucky?
Henderson: “Of course you can win. You have to work, too. Your attributes are going to contribute to the team.”
Question: What might you tell a player that he might now want to hear?
Henderson: “You may not get your chance like you think you will or you may not be as talented as you think you are right now. You might have to keep working. You might have to sit out a year. You might have to do some extra things to improve your game. You might not like the atmosphere. You might not like being a student if this is your first time to really be a student.”
Question: Is the student part tougher than some realize?
Henderson: “It is lot tougher than I thought it would be. I worked hard in school and my mom made sure she was on me about having good grades, but when I came to college it was a different atmosphere. Anybody would tell you that you have to do your thing and I have enjoyed the people at CATS (academic center) who have helped me.”