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Long Overdue Opportunity Appears, Jaylon Henderson Hits Hot-Streak With Chance

Boise State QB Jaylon Henderson is one of the most underrated players in the 2020 NFL Draft, and when he was given a shot to start he was amazing.

By Craig Forrestal 

Opportunity.

Some people wait a lifetime for that one moment.

It can be frustrating.

It can take you on a long and unanticipated journey.

It can also be rewarding once that opportunity comes.

That is the story of Jaylon Henderson in a nutshell. The Texas native was showered with just about every possible award imaginable in the Houston area as a high school standout. What happens from this point is something straight out of a movie. But do not mistake this story as a fairytale, but rather a testament for believing in yourself no matter the circumstances.  

Henderson took a redshirt year as a freshman at the University of Texas at San Antonio, under legendary coach Larry Coker.  After the 2016 season, Henderson transferred to Trinity Valley Community College, a junior college in Texas. 

The 2017 season at Trinity Valley Community College proved to be a defining moment in his career. Henderson chronicled some of the obstacles that were in his way during this time and mentioned how he relied on his mother for mental clarity. 

Henderson was impossible to ignore at Trinity Valley Community College as he was unbelievably effective. The problem was that Henderson was stuck in a multiple QB system causing an unpredictable pattern for his snap count during any given week. Henderson still posted season totals of 1081 passing yards, 9 passing TDs, 382 rushing yards and 3 additional rushing TDs; all with only 1 INT. Henderson talked about the recruiting process during this time and stated pretty much all his interest was coming from the Division 2 level and his only offers were from D2 programs. 

Henderson, wanted the opportunity to play at the Division 1 level and knew he could, if given the opportunity. The problem was finding a D1 opportunity. Henderson took it upon himself to reach out to colleges at the D1 level, looking for his opportunity, mentioning he was thinking about Baylor and Houston as possible destinations. That was until Henderson and Zak Hill reconnected. Henderson recalled how Hill initially recruited him in high school and the two spoke again, as Hill was now on staff at Boise State.

Henderson recalls the situation with Boise State coming together at almost the final hour. Due to various constraints, including the start of classes, Henderson trusted Hill, from their previous relationship, and joined the program without visiting. 

Henderson served as a backup in 2018 with Brett Rypien, who spent the 2019 season with the Denver Broncos, handling the starting duties. 

Heading into the 2019 season Henderson fully believed he would start the entire season as the Boise State QB, but the season had other plans. When Henderson was called upon he played lights out football; including leading the squad to the Mountain West Conference Championship defeating Hawaii 31-10 and earning Offensive MVP for the game. Henderson tallied 212 passing yards for 2 passing TDs on 20 of 29 passing, as he racked up an additional 51 yards on the ground plus a rushing TD. 

Henderson was 4-0 as a starter this season defeating New Mexico, Utah State, Colorado State and Hawaii; in the conference championship. During those 4 starts, Henderson completed 63.6% of passes (77-121) for 1081 yards with 12 passing TDs and 2 INT. He also contributed 2 rushing TDs for 119 yards over the same timespan. Henderson was crucial in wins over Utah State and Hawaii as he battled and outperformed Jordan Love (Utah State) and Cole McDonald (Hawaii); both were in attendance for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. 

That four-game stretch was the result of Henderson grinding tape and picking up on subtle nuances that allowed him to put the team in successful spots. However, the film-watching has always been something Henderson has taken seriously continuing the story with how additional film sessions with the coaching staff paid positive dividends in 2019. “I feel my football IQ is extremely high and I’m very NFL ready. We have a very sophisticated offensive system,” said Henderson.

Henderson has continued to build on that strong late-season performance, as he was invited to the College Gridiron Showcase and the Tropical Bowl; two college all-star games. Henderson finished the Tropical Bowl as the Offensive MVP for the American Team and produced an in-game stat line of 10 of 17 for 87 yards adding a rushing TD. Henderson stated, “I’ve seen all my buddies around me get their shot and go ahead and succeed. I can count on all of my hands and toes the amount of the players I’ve been around that are in the NFL. I just want my shot.”

And Henderson will have one more opportunity to showcase his dynamic ability before the draft at the Boise State Pro Day.

In preparation for the event, Henderson has looked to the tutelage of Steve Calhoun (QB Coach), Juice Hawkins (Speed Coach) and Brandon Pringle (Strength Coach). Henderson’s workout plan can be best summarized as wake-up, lift and run or wake-up, lift and throw. That is seven days a week with a healthy serving of film incorporated into his routine, but that was always the plan. “Right now, I’m continuing to prepare and train and better myself while upping my football knowledge. Pro Day is coming up and I just want to be the best I can for that,” on his mentality as his Pro Day is about one month away.

Henderson mentioned how he has had the chance to train with Keenan Allen, Pro Bowl WR, “Being able to throw to guys like him, that are already at that [NFL] speed. That’s what I feel like is helping me also. It has helped me get my speed up because he is a Pro Bowler. He has played at the top, top level and if I can throw to him and, his speed, then I can play with the best of them.” 

Henderson went on to discuss the benefits of playing in such a complex offensive system, “That is what I feel like is going to be the separating factor between me and the other quarterbacks in the draft. The knowledge I learned from Coaches Zak Hill and Bryan Harsin at Boise State and running that Boise State offense. Not a lot of teams across the country are that complex and don’t teach you to change protections when you need to. They don’t teach you how to kill plays when you need to. They don’t teach you to locate the blitzes. A lot of teams they teach you to look at this guy and then make a throw. They don’t teach you to go progression one, two, three, four, check down.”   

Henderson has always prepared as if he was the starting QB and he will continue to prepare that way because he has always believed in his talents no matter the circumstances. There were times where the opportunity looked like it might never come, but Henderson never waivered knowing his chance would come. And when it did he made the most of it. He ripped off an impressive four wins when called upon leading the team to a conference championship. Henderson has always had the tools to play at a high level he just needed the chance, and he gets, at least, one more chance at the Boise State Pro Day, April 2.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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