Cornerbacks have a tendency to be brash on the football field. Especially the good ones.
Colorado junior Greg Henderson is one of the good ones, yet his approach to the game is a little different than many of his cornerback peers.
"He's a very humble young man, which is a testament to his family -- where he comes from and how he was raised -- but he's got the confidence of a corner, too," CU cornerbacks coach Andy LaRussa said. "It's a quiet fire, and I like seeing it when it comes out, that's for sure."
Henderson's quiet fire has led to him being one of the best players on the CU roster, while his deep love for family and an appreciation for his roots allow him to feel fortunate every time he steps on the field.
Henderson, who has started nearly every game the past two seasons, didn't grow up in a football home. In fact, he never played football until he was a freshman at Norco High School in Corona, Calif. That's when his grandfather, Claudell Kendrick, introduced him to the game.
"Before that, my mom (Wanda), she was not letting me play football at all," said Henderson, who played basketball instead. "(Kendrick) finally convinced her."
Henderson's father, also named Greg, never pushed him into football because he didn't know anything about it. The elder Greg grew up in Belize and "he just knew soccer and basketball."
While he didn't learn football from his father, Henderson did have the opportunity to spend his youth learning about the culture from which is father came. Henderson has made several trips to Belize, a small country in Central America.
Belize is home to many of Henderson's relatives, and also the beautiful Belize Barrier Reef. Many of the country's residents, however, live in extreme poverty, and Henderson saw that side of the country, too.
"It shows me that I'm truly blessed to live in America, the land of the free," he said. "I'm truly blessed."
That's why, despite CU's 4-21 record during his two seasons, Henderson is happy to be a Buffalo. He wasn't a highly regarded recruit out of high school. Rivals.com gave him a two-star rating, and CU was the only school from a BCS conference to offer a scholarship.
While that motivates him, he appreciates the fact that he's receiving a good education while being allowed to play the game he loves.
"I know (getting a scholarship) meant a lot because (Greg and Wanda) had to pay for two other college educations," said Henderson, whose two older sisters, Sydney and Ashley, are college graduates.
Using his sisters as role models, Henderson hopes to graduate with a finance degree in December 2014. Henderson smiles when he talks about his family, which has meant so much to him in his young life.
"I always want to represent them in the right manner," he said. "My parents raised me well and I don't want to do anything to disrespect our family name."
Always cognizant of the name on the back of jersey, Henderson also keeps the memory of Kendrick at the front of his mind. Kendrick was the only grand parent Henderson really had a chance to get to know, but the man who introduced him to football passed away a year ago.
"Even though he's not here right now, I still think about him every time I step on the field," Henderson said. "He wanted me to play at a high level and make it to the NFL."
Only time will tell if Henderson will make it to the NFL, but he's certainly had the right attitude since arriving in Boulder. Despite being overlooked by many recruiters, Henderson came to CU determined.
"I had seen that nobody was talking about me when I first came in," he said. "I said, 'They're going to know who I am.' I came in and worked hard. You have to have a good work ethic. That's all I did. I just wanted to come in, play hard, play aggressive and give great effort."
As a true freshman in 2011, he earned a starting job right away and played more snaps on defense (823) than anybody on the team. No other true freshman in program history has played as much on defense.
"I had to grow up fast," he said. "It helped me to develop into a better player."
Last season, he battled a knee sprain early in the season, but started eight of the 10 games he played.
Although just 20 years old, Henderson is now a veteran leader who has the potential to get even better.
"I feel like he's got the chance and the tools to be one of the best, if not the best, corner in the Pac-12," LaRussa said.
Henderson agrees he can get better, but what he really wants is to see the Buffs get better as a whole.
"I just want to have a winning season and make it to a bowl game," he said. "We have all the talent in the world; we've just got to play with a lot of confidence. That's what you've got to have at corner and safety."
A little humility doesn't hurt, either.
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