As the Washington Redskins’ sixth-round draft choice, linebacker Robert Henson knows that he will have to wait his turn to play with the defense and contribute on special teams in the meantime. He has been down that path before.
For three seasons at TCU he got three starts on defense and played on virtually every special team unit. He performed so well that he received honorable mention All-Mountain West honors all three years.
Finally, in his senior year his chance to start came up, and he made the most of it. Henson recorded 73 tackles, nine of them for losses, and intercepted two passes. His performance earned him first-team all conference honors.
It also propelled TCU's defense to a No. 2 national ranking and the Horned Frogs to an 11-2 record and a final ranking as the No. 7 team in the country.
Robert went back home to Longview, Texas (getting some nice local TV coverage while he was there) after the Redskins’ minicamp to prepare for OTAs in June. He was good enough to answer a few questions about his minicamp experience and his adjustment to the NFL.
Rich Tandler: Which are you finding to be more challenging, the physical aspect of the NFL or the mental, playbook aspects of it?
Robert Henson: Honestly, the physical game was easy to adjust to; of course we have not put on pads just yet. I have struggled a bit with the mental aspect of the game; for example, getting everyone lined up with only seconds before the ball is snapped.
RT: Last year [head coach Jim] Zorn commented that some of the rookies came into training camp not physically or mentally ready to handle it. What will you be doing between now and the end of July to make sure that you’re not one of “those guys”?
RH: I really believe in the weight room and so far it has not failed me yet, so I am sure preparing my body for the rigors of the NFL is a must. Then second of all, I believe you have to be mentally tough in order to be successful; it’s a long season, and you have be prepared in every way possible.
RT: Is there a current Redskins player who you think has a game similar to yours? Or, if not, who in the NFL is your game modeled after?
RH: I have always tried to model my game after two current NFL linebackers. I have always tried to play with a high emotion and motor like Ray Lewis. He is always wired up and in attack mode.
I also love the way that Brian Urlacher prepares mentally. He is rarely caught out of position and studies the game so well, he always knows what is coming.
RT: What linebacker positions are you learning with the Redskins? You said in your Facebook update that you’re moving up the depth chart—any details you can share?
RH: Right now [linebackers coach Kirk] Olivadotti has me playing "Mike" Linebacker, which is the middle linebacker in the defense. It is a very good position; I feel very comfortable playing there.
Ultimately I will have to learn all three linebacker positions. I also know in order to make the team better I will have to contribute as well as focus on my play in the kicking game. So because of my effort on special teams, I have moved up a little on the depth charts for these teams.
RT: What is the main thing you need to work on as far as technique goes?
RH: The things I need to work on technique-wise are footwork and learning how to approach and take on blockers. Coach Olivadotti has done a great job tearing down my bad habits and rebuilding technique to make me more effective and productive.
I am constantly asking veteran London Fletcher how I can improve also, so between two great influences like them, I can do nothing but learn and reach full potential.
RT: What special teams units did you play at TCU? What do you enjoy about playing special teams?
RH: When I was at TCU I played on all special teams units, except extra point and field goal. I love the special teams phase of the game for two reasons. It can change the momentum as well as the outcome of the game very quickly.
Also it is man to man most of the time, and there is nothing like beating another person and making a play. It gets the whole team pumped and motivated.