Slain former SF football star David Henderson victim of ‘the hood’ 

By age 6, David Henderson could hit a baseball over his roof. Qunzena Henderson figured that was her son’s ticket off the troubled streets of the Bayview district. “But he said, ‘No, mom, I wanna play football,’” she recalled.

And play football he did, better than any other Bay Area high school running back since O.J. Simpson. He rushed for a city-record 5,600 yards in his prep career and led Lincoln High School to three straight Turkey Bowl titles before graduating in 2008. Local football aficionados saw him as NFL-bound.

But Henderson was gunned down last month in the Bayview, where he suffered multiple shots to the head and back. He clung to life at San Francisco General Hospital until Monday night, when his mother told doctors to remove his life support.

“I just said ‘That’s it,’” she said. “God is going to see the people who did this to him, mark my words.”

Following his death, the homicide unit inherited the case. Investigators are now seeking the help of the public in identifying a suspect.

Qunzena called her son a victim of growing up in the ghetto and being connected to a culture that thrives on violence.

Off-the-field distractions resulted in Henderson being benched during his 2009 season at the City College of San Francisco, but last month he said he had moved past those troubles and wanted to focus on football.

Following two failed attempts to play at larger colleges, Henderson returned to San Francisco this year to live with his mother and play for the semi-pro Pacifica Islanders. As a wide receiver and kick returner, he helped the team make it to the Northern California Football League’s conference championship game later this month.

“We like to focus on a team concept here, like the team is much bigger than any one player,” Islanders coach Tom Piccolotti said. “But it would be asinine for me to think we’d be the same team without him.”

Henderson’s mother said he was excited about forthcoming tryout opportunities with the University of Nebraska and the San Jose SaberCats arena football team.

High school friend Galen Davis called David one of the most popular kids at Lincoln. David’s light-hearted humor and goofy dance skills were well-known, Davis said.

“He was just a funny, happy guy,” he said. “He just had personality, and he had that character on and off the field.”
Qunzena is planning a funeral for her son early next week. As his “biggest fan,” she said she’s taking comfort in his tenderness as a son and the memories of his football greatness.

“My son lived to the fullest,” she said. “That’s just life in the hood. And I didn’t get him out of this hood.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

Title game fundraiser to aid family

A fundraiser for San Francisco prep football standout David Henderson will be held June 25 during the Northern California Football League conference championship.

Henderson died Monday night at San Francisco General Hospital as a result of being shot in the head May 26 in The City’s Bayview district. The 21-year-old had been playing for the Pacifica Islanders semipro team, which he helped advance to the conference championship game as a wide receiver and kick returner.

A flier for the event says, “David was a victim of a senseless act of violence. Stop the hate!” Sports memorabilia will be auctioned at the game, and proceeds will benefit members of Henderson’s family, who are facing medical and funeral costs.

Kickoff is planned for 2 p.m. at Terra Nova High School, 1450 Terra Nova Blvd. in Pacifica. An online donation tool can be found on the Islanders Facebook page  at www.facebook.com/PacificaIslanders.

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Dan Schreiber

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