De’Angelo Henderson will begin his NFL career as a member of the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos selected the Coastal Carolina University star running back with the 19th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, which was the 203rd overall pick.
Henderson received a call from the Broncos several minutes before the selection was announced, and he spoke to several members of the organization, including general manager John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
“Just to get the call was one of the greatest feelings I think I’ve ever had,” said Henderson, who will leave May 11 for rookie mini-camp at the Broncos facility. “I’m not here by myself. God’s will got me here. I’m blessed and honored to be in this position.”
Just to get the call was one of the greatest feelings I think I’ve ever had. I’m not here by myself. God’s will got me here. I’m blessed and honored to be in this position.
Henderson, a Summerville native, was watching the draft Saturday with a gathering of friends and family at a uncle’s house in North Charleston, and the Broncos’ call set off a celebration. “It’s crazy over here right now,” Henderson said after being the 22nd running back selected.
Among the 21 running backs selected before him were fullback Alex Armah of Division II West Georgia in the sixth round, Tarik Cohen in the fourth round out of North Carolina A&T, which plays at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, and Elijah McGuire in the sixth round out of Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt Conference, which CCU is moving into in 2017.
Denver was not one of the organizations Henderson expected to draft him. The Broncos were not one of the teams that worked him out individually, flew him in for a meeting or met with him privately in the area. He said he had a short conversation with a team representative at the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, and has only had a few short conversations since, while some other teams were in contact once a week or more.
But he’s happy with his destination. “I feel great about it,” Henderson said. “I feel I’m in the best position to be successful. I believe they have my best interests, and I believe they’ll help me grow into the football player I’ll become.”
I feel great about it. I feel I’m in the best position to be successful. I believe they have my best interests, and I believe they’ll help me grow into the football player I’ll become.
The Denver roster lists four other running backs in starter C.J. Anderson, who is entering his fifth year in the NFL, backup Devontae Booker, who was drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft out of Utah, Bernard Pierce and Juwan Thompson.
Henderson, who is 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds, is a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton FCS Offensive Player of the Year honor and set an NCAA Division I record by scoring at least one touchdown in 35 consecutive games over his final three seasons.
He has a degree in recreation and sports management and is pursuing a second one in communications, and owns numerous CCU career records including rushing yards (4,635), rushing attempts (721), rushing TDs (58), average yards per rush (6.43), average rushing yards per game (92.7) and most 100-yard rushing games (25).
He’s also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, catching 97 career passes for 921 yards.
Henderson missed three games last season due to a shoulder injury, yet ran for at least 98 yards in eight of his nine games and set a CCU single-season record by averaging 128.4 rushing yards per game.
In nine games as a senior, Henderson gained 1,156 yards, averaged 6.32 yards per carry and scored 19 touchdowns, including 16 rushing.
“I worked so hard and sacrificed a lot of things in high school and college – not going to parties, not hanging out with the wrong crowd, not eating bad food – doing everything I was supposed to do to be in this position,” Henderson said. “And I’ve had a lot of people who helped me get to this point. My family has been there, and I’ve had some great coaches who have helped me along the way as well.”
Henderson is the sixth Chanticleer to be drafted since the program’s inception in 2003 and the third to be drafted in the last four years. Henderson and current Baltimore Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (2014 4th round – 138th pick) played together in the same CCU backfield in the 2013 season, when Taliaferro rushed for a CCU record 1,729 yards and Henderson gained 599.
Other Chants drafted include quarterback Tyler Thigpen (2007, 7th round – 217th pick), wide receiver Jerome Simpson (2008, 2nd round – 46th pick), cornerback Josh Norman (2012, 5th round – 143d pick) and receiver Matt Hazel (2014, 6th round – 190th pick).
Additionally, Quinton Teal (2007), Mike Tolbert (2008), Maurice Simpkins (2010) and Denzel Rice (2015) all made NFL rosters after signing as free agents.
A total of 30 running backs were selected, and they were six of the final 16 picks.
As expected, the first three running backs taken were Leonard Fournette of LSU, Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Dalvin Cook of Florida State – Fournette and McCaffrey going in the first round and Cook in the second. Joe Mixon of Oklahoma was the only other running back drafted in the second round.
At the Scouting Combine, Henderson posted the fourth-fastest time in the 40-yard dash among the 33 running backs who were invited at 4.48 seconds, matching McCaffrey and beating the times of Fournette and Cook.
Denver’s other draft picks were Utah tackle Garett Boles in the first round, Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker in the second round, Louisiana Tech wide receiver Carlos Henderson and Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley in the third round, Michigan tight end Jake Butt and Georgia receiver Isaiah McKenzie in the fifth round, and Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly with the draft’s final pick, 253rd overall.
Several of Henderson’s fellow seniors on the 2016 CCU football team are still hoping to be picked up as free agents by NFL teams or continue their careers professionally in another league such as the Canadian Football League. They include wide receiver Bruce Mapp, safety Richie Sampson, linebacker Alex Scearce and offensive lineman Sam Ekwonike, who were all among those who participated in CCU’s Pro Day on March 31.