By Moses Leos III
Obtaining an education has always been the top goal for Lehman High wide receiver Tyler Henderson.
With his mom, Sheila, who worked as a math teacher in his youth, Henderson grew up liking numbers. It’s the sole reason why math is one of his favorite subjects.
But even when Henderson realized how adept he was at playing football, the prospect of obtaining a quality education remained.
It was the primary motivation for Henderson’s decision to commit to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. last month.
“The most important thing (in making a decision on a college) beside athletics was academics,” Henderson said. “They (Navy) have a top five academic program. That’s the main thing I was looking for in a college – to come out of school with a great education.”
Henderson, who became one of the first Lobos to be recruited by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program, said his decision was made after he toured the campus in Annapolis. Henderson said the Naval Academy showed a “great family feel.” He said the coaching staff treated him “like I was one of their own.”
He also got the chance to meet Navy head coach Ken Niamatuolo during his college visit, whom Henderson said was a “down to earth man” and another father figure for him.
“They showed us what they had to offer. It was a great experience,” Henderson said. “Out of all the colleges I visited, this was the best. I felt like I was a home, not like I was 20 hours away.”
But it was the prospect of earning his degree in four years, along with serving his country, that allowed Henderson to make his decision. Henderson, who has had relatives in the military, doesn’t see life after playing football at Navy as “service,” but rather as a job opportunity.
“I get there, serve my years, and I get to serve my country as well,” Henderson said. “This was a great chance. There’s a guaranteed future with this and this path.”
Along with the academics comes the athletic factor for Henderson, who began playing tiny mite football with the North Hays Optimist Gators in Kyle.
Ever since, Henderson has loved the game. This love was bolstered by his ability to continue playing with his friends from little league to Lehman High.
“Growing up with my friends, it was a blessing,” Henderson said. “It was important to me that I got to grow up with and play with my friends I grew up with.”
Henderson also continues his family’s tradition of participating in athletics. Sheila Henderson was a track and field star at the University of Texas at Austin; she now works as athletic director at Lockhart High. His father, Orlando, has college basketball experience.
In addition, several of Henderson’s aunts and uncles ran at the UIL state track and field meet, while one cousin participated at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials.
While all of his family got Henderson interested in athletics, he said he wants to forge his own path. But he also heeds their advice when it comes to what to expect at the next level. He said they impart advice such as commitment and the different kinds of distractions he may face.
“They give me pointers on things how’s it going to be in college,” Henderson aid. “To find the right kind of mindsets to get through distractions and stay focused.”
Getting better overall has been the goal this summer for Henderson, who seeks to improve his footwork and overall strength heading into the 2016 season.
Helping build a brotherhood for the Lobos in his final season is also imperative.
“I want to make sure we finish our last season out right,” Hnderson said.
But for the student who enjoys information technology and coding, a life in athletics helping to shape his education was something he never would have imagined.
“I didn’t expect to get this far. I was playing (football) for fun. That’s kind of where I started,” Henderson said. “Not to earn a scholarship or to be recruited. I started out playing for fun because I love the game.”