At least three familar faces from West Potomac High School's football team will be absent from the field when the 2012 season kicks off this fall.
West Potomac history teacher Eric Henderson guided the Wolverines to an 8-4 record and a Virginia AAA Division 6 Northern Region semifinal appearance last season. But on March 7, Henderson was informed he was being relieved of coaching duties, which came as a shock to him, his family and the entire Wolverine football community.
“I was given no reason,” said Henderson, who is still teaching at WPHS. “They wanted to go in a different direction. And you know what, that is perfectly acceptable. Coaching contracts are unrenewable, not guaranteed from year-to-year. So if the prerogative of the administration is that they want to go in a different direction, then that is fine.”
Despite the abruptness of his firing, Henderson says he harbors no ill will against West Potomac and that his final season is one that he recalls with fondness.
“It was a great season, and I thought that the kids had a great time,” he said. “I know I did, and I had a lot of good memories.”
Henderson's sons Caleb, a sophomore quarterback, and Jon, a junior linebacker, played for their father last season. The brothers transferred to Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke last week, however, and plan to play football for the Bruins in the fall.
“The boys have enrolled legally at Braddock. We’ve done our due diligence and research, so they’re currently at Braddock,” said Henderson. “Both boys are fitting in nicely.”
Virtually unknown heading into the 2011 season, Caleb thrived in his father’s spread offense last season and finished the year with 2,403 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. He also added another 528 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
“He has those physical materials that a lot of kids aren’t blessed with,” said Henderson. “He’s a very explosive athlete. He’s the sum of a lot of interesting and advantageous qualities. ... He’s big enough to play pro style and he's athletic enough to play spread. It’s a nice juxtaposition of qualities.”
And with a coach for a father, it’s not exactly surprising to see how Caleb developed high football acumen. Stacey Henderson, Eric's wife, said the two spend a great deal of time watching film together in the family’s living room. And Eric Henderson has no problem admitting the fact.
“We watch film at home all the time,” he said with a laugh.
Caleb took his first visit to the University of Maryland in early February, the first of many the 6-foot-4, 220 pound signal caller is expected to go on within the next two years. In addition to Maryland, he’s garnered interest from the Universities of Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia and from Michigan State.
“It’s a lot different than when I was a high school athlete. Everything starts much earlier, and if you’re not managing it as a parent, it can get out of control with the combines and camps and activities that the kids get involved in. It’s a very time consuming thing,” said Henderson, who played collegiately at the Naval Academy and Rhode Island.
While the future remains unknown as to where Henderson will ultimately land as a teacher and coach, the Hendersons will undoubtedly be there to support one another, as they’ve done since early March. As of now, Henderson isn’t looking too far ahead.
“Fairfax County operates under a transfer season, and that season begins within the next couple of weeks. So dependent on who advertises an opening [that] will determine where I go. I don’t know yet. Nobody has firm numbers yet, so we don’t know.”