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Friday, March 23, 2007

Recruiting the Trojan Family

O Canada...The Trey and Nolan Henderson Story
by Mojack


We all know what it means to be members of the Trojan Family. It is a bond that we share, something that unites us, a feeling of pride and of belonging that we understand because we're a part of it, yet it's one of those inexplicable concepts that can't be described with a few simple words. We're alumni of USC, fans of USC, family of alumni and fans of USC, employees of USC, whatever our connection, however we find the bond, it is there and it is very real. (photo left: proud dad Nolan and Trey) And what makes being a part of the Trojan Family special is that the people who are in the Trojan Family are special.

So it's always a great feeling to welcome new people into the Trojan Family, for we know they're in for a wonderful journey that will last a lifetime. That is one aspect that makes the recruiting period a fun time, because not only are we bringing in a new crop of Trojan football players into our University, but we're welcoming their family and friends into the Trojan Family.

A few days ago, USCHerd received an email from Nolan Henderson the father of Trey Henderson, the incoming defensive lineman from Vancouver, British Columbia. Nolan had said that he reads all the Trojan football boards, and he wanted to be added to the email list for the Thundering Herd. I said that all Trojan fans were excited about Trey coming to USC, and asked Nolan if he'd like to share some of his experiences and thoughts about Trey's recruitment with us. Nolan said that he wanted to participate fully in being a member of the Trojan Family, and if we would be interested in his story, he would gladly share.

We want to give a huge USC welcome to Trey a
nd Nolan and the Henderson Family, and we want to thank Nolan for his time and effort in giving us this interview. Fight On, Hendersons.

As a parent, we love our children unconditionally. And our children all have hopes and ambitions, and some are more realistic than others. When did Trey start taking football seriously, and talking about possibly earning a scholarship to a major university to play football? And when did you realize that this wasn't idle chatter from a dreamer, but a realistic possibility?

Trey started playing community football at 5 or 6, flag for 2 years and then into tackle. Community would be the equivalent of Pop Warner in the States. Most of the coaches were parents with limited football experience so we used to talk about playing high school football. The quality of coaching would improve, the facilities would be better and it would be an experience that you wouldn’t want to pass up.

After his freshman year the varsity coach told us that Trey had Div. 1 talent and would move him up to Varsity his sophomore year. He started at tight end as a sophomore and played great but there was still only one way to know if he could compete in the U.S., so we went camping. We camped at 2 Pac-10 schools that summer, one was Cal and at that camp he was put on a team with a few of Cal’s early commits and several other D-1 players. He even scrimmaged against Josh Tatum’s McClymonds team. He had a good camp and won the Jr. Tight End M.V.P. That’s when we knew playing D-1 could become a reality.

Tell us about your home town. Are you in Vancouver or a suburb? How long has your family lived there? Not to be naive here, but I'll admit my ignorance. What is high school in Canada like? Do they play American football in Canadian high schools or is it the Canadian version of football? And what is the competition level like?

We live in Richmond, it’s a suburb right outside of Vancouver and we’ve lived here for 17 years. Trey’s high school is an all-boys college prep school. I guess it would be the equivalent of your Servite High School.

They play American rules but the competition level isn’t even close. This year there were only 7 Canadians that signed letters-of-intent to play D-1 football. I know in the States you could have 7 from one high school play D-1 football.

Being Canadian has hurt Trey in his recruitment. Coaches really can’t tell how good a kid is if he’s not playing against the best competition every game. Coach Ruel told me if Trey had played in L.A., he would have been offered after his junior year. I asked a well known Pac-10 head coach if he ever had any Canadian players. His answer was yes, they were smart.

Did you play sports in your high school and college years? If so, how did you use your past experiences to counsel Trey?

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, played high school basketball and played at a J.C. in college. I really couldn’t counsel Trey on the recruiting process because things have changed so much since I was in school. The only thing that hasn’t changed and I’ve tried to drill into his head is that you not only have to perform on the field but in the classroom and be a good person.

Now as a parent of a son who has Division 1 level talent, what were you looking for in a college? Did you have wants, desires, needs of what you thought would be a good fit for Trey? And did you share your thoughts with Trey? If you shared your feelings, did Trey listen? How involved was your wife in the process? Or are you one of these supposed "new age" fathers and/or families who steps back and says, "Son, this is your life, your choice, feel free to make this important decision without ol' Dad's input?"

I just wanted Trey to be in a place where they care about the kids. Somewhere he would get a chance to get an education, play football and just be happy. We talked everyday about the recruiting process and what would be a good fit. He always listened to what I had to say, but he also knew that whatever decision he made the family would support it.

Following up the first question, when did Trey's recruiting start? When did some major schools get involved with trying to lure Trey? And finally, when did USC enter the picture officially? I know the recruitniks on the USC boards were surprised by Trey's name popping up near the end of the recruiting season. Was it really a last minute attempt by USC to get Trey, or was there contact previously?

Trey’s coach started to send his junior film out after signing day '06. Coach Ruel was the first to call followed by that other school across town with the powder blue jerseys. (photo left: Trey at USC's Rising Seniors Camp) There were calls and letters from schools in most of the major conferences. Trey talked to Coach Ruel and he invited him down to camp. He then talked to him once in November of his senior year and then in January.

Was Trey an USC fan growing up? Had he been to any USC camps? I don't remember Trey being on any lists to make official visits to USC, so if he didn't, was it just a blind choice? Or do you and your family know people or family in Los Angeles who gave you informed opinions about the campus, the scholastics, and the athletic department?

Trey was a big Miami Hurricanes fan growing up but started to like SC during the National Championship years. I have a cousin who works for ABC in Los Angeles and when we came down to camp we spent some time with him. He introduced us to one of his co-workers whose son is a SC alumnus. We must have talked for 45 minutes and not once did they mention the football program. They only talked about what it meant to have a degree from SC, the opportunities it would create for Trey. It was the first time I heard the phrase “The Trojan Family." It gave both of us a different perspective of SC.

We had been to Cal camp and Univ. of Washington camp last year and the day before we came to SC we spent the day camping at that other school across town, so we thought we knew how most camps were ran. Then we got to SC and as you know it was intense. The top players from California were there and from other parts of the country. I watched the morning session and it was like Marine boot camp. I was concerned whether or not Trey could handle this because he had never been around so much talent and practiced at such an intense pace. My questions where answered at the lunch break. He came up to me and with the biggest grin and said Dad, I love this and I see why kids come here to play football. This is awesome and I want to play here.

Once USC contacted Trey, how difficult was the decision for Trey to switch his commitment from Washington State? Did Trey struggle with his choice or was he confident once USC made the offer that Los Angeles would be his home for the next four years? And, what was your opinion of USC and what they could offer Trey once they came into the picture?

Well it was December and Trey had 5 offers, Montana, Kentucky, Idaho, Akron and Rice. Washington State called, had him in for a visit, he loved it. It was Pac-10 football and Trey wanted to play at the highest level he could. We had heard from SC twice, we weren’t sent one piece of mail, or anything so why would we expect a school like SC to offer a kid from Canada? He committed to WSU and was happy with his decision.

Trey knew from the day he left camp that he wanted to be a Trojan. As parents you want your kids to keep their word and stick by their commitments, but we couldn’t counsel our son not to go after his dream. He wanted to play at the best school and with the best players in the country. Once SC came into the picture I knew it was a no-brainer. It gives him everything he needs from athletics, education, culture and the Trojan Family. My best friend put a funny spin on it, he said at SC he’ll be on the sidelines with people like Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott and Mike Garrett. At WSU who’s he going to be on the sideline with….Ryan Leaf?

Without getting into names and or/schools, are there any "general" recruiting stories you could share with us that you find amusing and/or strange?

The only strange thing that happened was when Kentucky offered. They called Trey and offered, then sent the official letter and that was it. We never got another call or a letter or anything. I just found it strange that they would offer a kid and never do anything to recruit him.

In March of 2007, before Trey leaves home, how do you feel as his father who is about to have his son move out a few thousand miles away? Is Trey excited? Are you nervous? What are his plans for this summer? When will Trey start studying the playbook and start on a Coach Carlisle workout program?

As a parent I think my job is to prepare him to leave home and go out into the world and make a life for himself. So I’m excited for him in that aspect. I’ll be honest and tell you I’m a little nervous too. He won’t turn 18 until October so he’s still kind of young going to the big city. We’re both really excited as far as football is concerned. We talk about this kid from Canada who in August is going to step on the practice field with the #1 team in the country. He’ll be doing drills with Lawrence Jackson, when he gets into a 3-point stance he’ll look down the line and see Sedrick Ellis. It’s really still hard to believe.

Trey has started Coach Carlisle’s workout program and is studying his playbook. He’s doing track this summer. He’s the #1 hammer thrower and the #3 discus thrower in Canada and ranked between 25th and 27th in the world in hammer for his age group.

If he can maintain his grades he plans on throwing hammer for the Trojan track team.

We’ll be down to SoCal in April to a couple of track meets. Trey will be throwing at Azusa Pacific on April 12th and at Mt. Sac April 14th-15th.

Finally, what are your hopes for Trey during this upcoming freshman year? And can you project three, four or five years down the road, what do you as a father of a incoming USC football player hope for your son's education and football future?

I just hope he can go in and have fun his freshman year. Meet new people; maybe join a fraternity soak up everything SC and Los Angeles have to offer. As far as the future I just hope he gets his degree and achieves his personal and team goals on the football field. aThe way things have gone for this kid it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes a great football player for USC.

The more I read the message boards, the blogs and newspaper articles I know being a part of the Trojan Family is something special and can’t wait for our family to be a part of it. (photo right: The Henderson Family) I have one request for the Thundering Herd. I’m a big man and need Trojan clothing in 4X or 5X. Can anybody tell me where to shop?

FIGHT ON

Nolan Henderson

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