Athlete of the week: Connor Henderson, Rogers, football: Calm and the helm

by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor

Connor Henderson has been a quarterback ever since he first put on pads in fourth grade. All those years, he prepared for the chance to take over the varsity job at Rogers High School.

“Growing up watching those guys play, especially Bjorn Bloom and Matt Weber, made me really want to be in that position someday,” said Henderson, referring to his two most recent predecessors. “As a younger kid, I idolized those guys.”

Henderson’s opp-ortunity came earlier than expected. He was the backup his junior year when starter Sam Spilles broke his collarbone in the second game.

Henderson took the helm from then on, and responded with two quality seasons in which he passed for 1,717 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just five interceptions, in a run-first offense.

Connor Henderson, Rogers quarterback, consistently moved the team and avoided mistakes. (Photo by Cindy Mauren)

Connor Henderson, Rogers quarterback, consistently moved the team and avoided mistakes. (Photo by Cindy Mauren)

“What impressed me most was how prepared Connor was to step in and lead,” coach Marc Franz said. “His greatest attribute is that he’s smart and makes good decisions. He rarely does anything that will hurt the team. He’s a very even-keel person.”

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-hander threw for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns this year, completing 66 of 127, with two pickoffs, on a 9-1, conference champion team.

“Connor has a good arm and throws nice, soft-touch passes,” Franz said. “And of course, he had a very good supporting cast.”

Henderson correctly affixes much of the credit on the offensive line, which did not allow a single sack all season.

“My line did an amazing job,” Henderson said. “They are definitely a bunch of hardworking guys.”

Henderson didn’t have to run much, 16 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns, but had one 44-yard touchdown on a broken play against Big Lake. “He’s faster than you think,” Franz said.

As a junior, Henderson hit 54 of 109 for 706 yards and seven touchdowns with three intercepted for a 7-2, conference champ team.

Henderson lists a pair of close wins as career highlights — 10-7 victory over Monticello his junior year and the 38-37 overtime win over St. Michael-Albertville for the conference title this year — along with this year’s 52-14 playoff drubbing of the Elk River team that ousted Rogers last year.

That STMA game was Henderson’s finest hour. Not only did he throw for a team-record 281 yards and two touchdowns, he was also called upon to direct a last-minute, do-or-die drive for the only time in his two-year tenure and came through, moving the club 43 yards to set up Isaac Aanerud’s last-second, game-tying field goal.

“We practice that every week, so we were ready,” he said.

But sports can humble you, too, and STMA shut down the Royals 21-7 three weeks later in the section finals, ending Henderson’s career and that of 21 classmates, with two conference titles but no section titles.

“We had very high goals this year, and we achieved most of them,” Henderson reflected. “We had a really fun season.” The section finals loss was “very disappointing, obviously. But we stuck together, and life goes on.”

 

THE HENDERSON SCORECARD

Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents Eric and Melissa; sisters Courtney, 15, and Cailey, 13; brother Cam, 11 … Sports: football, baseball … Other activities: Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society … Academics: 3.72 GPA … College plans: undecided on where and major

Favorite stuff — Class: math … TV show: “Sports Center” … Movie: “Step Brothers” …. Reading: “Sports Illustrated” … Food: Chipotle fare, especially steak burrito … Drink: Mt. Dew … Team: Packers … Athlete: Aaron Rodgers … Kickback activities: fishing, skiing, snowboarding

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