As David Henderson walked off the field following a 287-yard, three-touchdown game in a 49-28 win over Lowell three weeks ago, the Lincoln running back uttered one of the more memorable quotes of this prep football season.
“I felt amazing,” Henderson said. “Like I was 9 feet tall, bulletproof, walking through the jungle.”
And as the years pass from what has been a remarkable three-season run through the Academic Athletic Association, the memory of Henderson’s size, speed and signature carries will likely grow to similarly superhero-like dimensions in the largely anecdotal annals of The City’s all-time greats. The 6-foot, 190-pound Henderson has accumulated 5,350 yards and 64 rushing touchdowns during his varsity career, making him the most prodigious rusher in San Francisco Section history, according to CalHiSports.com. He has 2,068 yards and 26 rushing scores this season, and as the Mustangs
(8-3) prepare for a chance to win their third consecutive Turkey Bowl title against Washington (7-3) on Thursday at Kezar Stadium, the kid who has made his yards by always focusing on the present has found himself growing nostalgic.
“The other night, a lot of thoughts just started coming into my head,” Henderson said. “It’s my last Turkey Day and it’s like I was pulling out the history books and thinking about how great a time I’ve had here. Two titles and I’ve never lost a game at Kezar. And we’re looking for one more.”
The lineage of great San Francisco runners starts with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ollie Matson (who played at Washington in the late 1940s) and continues through O.J. Simpson (Galileo, 1960s). There are no old stat boxes or game film on this previous generation, just the recollections of those who saw their games. City College of San Francisco coach George Rush played against Simpson while at St. Ignatius and then with him at CCSF and has courted and coached the area’s best in his 32 years leading the Rams. So it means something when he says Henderson is the best back he’s seen come out of The City in the last 20 years.
“There’s something very special about David and you don’t have to know much about football to see it,” Rush said. “I don’t know [what other city back] I could compare him to off the top of my head, but I can’t remember seeing anyone better.”
Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno has watched Henderson mature from academic ineligibility for the first half of his sophomore season to a durable team leader as a senior.
“It’s almost humanly impossible some of the things he can do,” Ferrigno said of Henderson, who will likely not decide on a college until the spring. “On the field, he’s Picasso. David with the ball — that’s just his deal.”
The one knock on Henderson has been a perceived lack of talent in the AAA, but he went a long way toward erasing that in two dominating performances last year. First, he ran for 376 yards and five touchdowns in a
38-32 regular-season win against a good Balboa defense, then exploded for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 78-37 TransBay Bowl loss to a McClymonds team that featured numerous Division I college prospects.
“I was just feeling the vibe the whole week,” Henderson said of the McClymonds game, which he opened by returning the kickoff
83 yards for a touchdown. “I heard people talking and saying we don’t play in a good league, but after that game they had to say ‘Oh, yeah, that kid’s the real deal.”