Editor's Note: Run-ons are taking on increasingly important roles with Penn State's program as the Nittany Lions deal with scholarship restrictions. Over the next few weeks, Lions247 will profile several of the new arrivals.
When recruiters -- mostly from MAC programs -- would call Greg Botta about one of his players, Carter Henderson, they usually had the same question about the Franklin Regional linebacker.
"Do you have any film of him not blitzing?" they'd say.
Botta's reply was the same each time.
"He's not blitzing," he would say. "He's just running to the football downhill."
Henderson made a career of getting to the quarterback or running back as quickly as many defenders would if they were blitzing -- except he wasn't.
"They were just amazed because they thought he was on blitzes the whole time," Botta said. "His angles to the football were so good, and he was relentless."
Those angles and that energy helped Henderson rack up a school-record 145 tackles and 18 tackles for loss during his senior year, after he had recorded 109 stops as a junior. He had offers from Duquesne, IUP, St. Francis and California (PA) and interest from Pitt and several MAC schools. But the chance to suit up for Penn State, even as a run-on, was too much for him to pass up.
"He wanted to play the highest level of football he could have," Botta said. "He used to say, 'I just want an opportunity to show myself.'"
Henderson, who came to Penn State at 5-foot-10, 211 pounds, played middle linebacker for Franklin Regional's 3-5-3 defense and broke into the starting lineup during his sophomore season. Botta, who has been on the Panther sidelines for two decades and coached both of Henderson's two older brothers, gave Henderson some opportunities when the veterans went to the bench late in comfortable wins early in the year and Henderson took advantage of them.
"You could just see his ability," he said. "He's one of those kids that has a nose for the football."
Henderson was also a terrific weapon for Franklin Regional on coverage teams, which is where he is the likeliest to make an initial impact with the Nittany Lions. If he does, Botta has no doubt he will be playing downhill.
"He said, 'If I get an opportunity to run down the field on special teams in front of 100,000 people, that'll make my career,'" Botta said. " 'That'll be a dream of mine.'"
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