JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Few players in Tennessee football history symbolize intensity and passion as much as former defensive tackle John Henderson, who played at Tennessee from 1998-2001 before becoming a first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002 and going on to multiple Pro Bowl appearances in his 11-year NFL career.
Now Butch Jones hopes some of that passion rubs off on his current team. Henderson came to speak to the Vols before their first bowl practice in Jacksonville on Monday morning.
“It’s very important, it’s a pride of who we are,” Jones said of having the legendary Vol come speak to the team and watch practice at the University of North Florida. “It’s another great illustration, a 10-year [NFL] vet, a Pro Bowl player, loves Tennessee. To have him be able to come back and be from here in Jacksonville. The message was from being a freshman and all the things that goes into it to being a Pro Bowl player and all the things that going into it how you take care of your body.
“You could see the excitement, you could see the energy, you could see the passion. We led off with a YouTube video of him and the trainer that has become very wide-spread and he was laughing about that, but you could see the passion and the energy. Great players have an energy level about themselves, so it was a great illustration for our players of the excellence that we have here at Tennessee.”
That YouTube video Jones mentioned has taken on a life of his own. Henderson let a trainer slap him before games to get him pumped up.
Many of Tennessee’s current players were too young to appreciate a lot of Henderson’s career in Knoxville in person, but many know of him and have seen clips, either of him getting fired up in the locker room or of him on the field.
“It was cool,” said true freshman defensive lineman Derek Barnett. “We saw the video of the trainers slapping him and stuff and getting him hype for the game. He was getting hype in the meeting, talking about this game and our practice today. He’s going to be out there and he’s a legend, so I look up to him.
“That dude was a bad dude back in the day.”
Henderson’s message served as a wake-up call and a reminder for a Tennessee team that got some time off over Christmas before flying to Jacksonville on Sunday to begin on-site preparation for the TaxSlayer Bowl against Iowa on Friday.
“It was great to have that intensity, especially in the morning,” said defensive back Brian Randolph. “We may be a little sleepy, he came in and woke us right up. He reminded us what we’re here for. We’re not here to party or nothing like that, we’re here to have fun, but the main goal is to beat Iowa.
“He’s a crazy d-lineman. That’s what we need on our team. We need a lot of energy, a lot of juice like that, a lot of emotion, a lot of passion, he brings it all and he gave a little bit to us in our team meeting this morning.”