There’s good news for local football die-hards suffering offseason withdrawals.
The Pacifica Islanders, 2008 Minor League Football Association national champions, are primed this season to recapture the crown that barely eluded them the past two spring seasons.
Strengthening a talented roster that includes a former Super Bowl champion in Edwin Mulitalo, the Islanders this season welcomed David Henderson, a familiar name to fans of San Francisco’s high school and college football scene.
“Athletically, he’s head and shoulders above 99 percent of the players at this level, and there are some good players at this level,” Islanders coach and general manager Tom Piccolotti said.
Henderson, a product of San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point area, began playing organized football with the San Francisco Brown Bombers youth team.
As a sophomore at Lincoln High School in 2005, Henderson’s academic struggles kept him out of action the first half of the season. Once on the field, the electrifying running back proved to be a bona fide game-changer with a combination of explosive speed and natural instincts.
His easy smile brightened as Henderson recalled the Academic Athletic Association playoff game against Lowell his sophomore year.
“I had just fumbled with two minutes left in the game, we were down by six points,” Henderson said. “I went to the sideline.
“Coach [Phil] Ferrigno, who’s like my dad, said ‘Your time to shine is now. You have to go into the rest of the game thinking that you’re 9 feet tall, a man of steel, walking through the jungle, untouchable.’”
The Lincoln defense forced a turnover. Henderson responded to his coach’s challenge by icing the game with a 66-yard touchdown run. He would go on to lead the Mustangs to a Turkey Bowl win that season, a feat that would be repeated his junior and senior years.
Henderson’s on-field successes and off-field issues followed him to City College of San Francisco.
“I got benched for my sophomore season, wasn’t showing up for practice,” he said candidly. “I had a lot of distractions going on, hanging out with the wrong crowd.”
Rams coach George Rush told his star runner that he would have to earn back his spot.
“The Cabrillo game, I won my position back, I won my life back,” Henderson recalls of the 24-carry, 200-yard performance.
Henderson’s hardest hit occurred off the field, before the Islanders’ season began, when one his biggest fans, cousin Bezzela, was killed shortly after celebrating his 19th birthday.
The 21-year-old Henderson, who the Islanders have lined up as a wide receiver, has two years of college eligibility remaining and has his sights on professional football.
“I’m a smarter player, stronger mentally and physically,” Henderson said. “And off the field, I am very concentrated on getting my life together.”
– Minor League Football Association national champions in 2008
– Undefeated entering Saturday’s game
– Islanders have scored 153 points through the first five games
– Islanders have scored an average of 30.6 points per game through the first five games
– More information available at www.islanderfootball.org