By I.C. Murrell
COMMERCIAL SPORTS EDITOR
When Lawrence Henderson arrived on the Arkansas-Pine Bluff campus in January, he quickly learned about Brandon Thurmond and the impact he had on the Golden Lions’ run to the SWAC football championship.
“I was looking for somewhere where I could step my foot into a four-year college coming out of a junior college,” said Henderson, a sophomore from Houston. “After hearing about him, I knew I had some big shoes to fill. I knew I had to come in and possibly get a chance to start. I had to get my work ethic going and do well on the field.”
UAPB only signed one junior-college transfer for next season. Coach Monte Coleman thinks he’s made the acquisition count, going down to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, to find a defensive lineman to fill the role of a highly decorated player.
Highly decorated as in SWAC Defensive Player of the Year and NCAA sack leader across all divisions, among other honors from the 2012 season. Thurmond, who had 17 sacks last fall, is one of two Golden Lions graduating from the starting four-man front last season.
Henderson, a 6-foot-2, 270-pounder comes from a college steeped in a winning tradition, boasting 18 conference and two national championships. As of the 2012 season, six of Trinity Valley’s products were still on active NFL rosters.
Henderson’s now on a Division I program after just playing one season at Trinity Valley. (He redshirted during the 2011 season.) But he’s still adjusting to playing on the Football Championship Subdivision level, hoping to meet Coleman’s expectations for 2013.
“It’s been tough, but at the same time you have to work through it,” he said. “Coming from a junior college, you’ve got to get ready for that D-I football and ready for the bigger linemen and the more faster the players are. You have to get it down pat and well.”
Henderson played on the second string during Friday’s scrimmage, which concluded the opening week of UAPB’s spring drills. But he said it’s not a measure of his performance so far.
“This is just spring,” he said. “You’ve got to let the starters who play well, the starters who started last year go ahead and get their step up and possibly I’ll have the chance to come in and take someone’s spot.”
That’s what Coleman’s expecting, anyway.
“He’s got to learn to go every down and play himself into shape,” Coleman said. “He’s got to help us. We’ve got some great defensive linemen, and he’s got to come and help us. That’s the reason why you bring a junior-college lineman in mid-year.”
Said Henderson: “I have to work on a lot. Me as a football player, I have to better myself at getting off the ball and making more plays and helping my defense.”
He’ll get an opportunity when UAPB resumes practice Tuesday. The Lions will practice every other day from there (except Sundays) until April 24, work out again on April 25 and hold their Black and Gold Scrimmage on April 27.
The Lions will scrimmage again next Saturday.