Nov. 4, 2000
Both wide receivers for the Cougars, one a redshirt senior and one a sophomore, Patrick and Collin Henderson grew up knowing two things very well: the Cougars and football.
"We have pictures of us when I was like three and he was six wearing WSU shirts," Collin, a 6-foot-1, 191 pound sophomore, said.
"No, I was like three and you were one," Patrick, older by three years, shorter by one inch and lighter by 12 pounds, corrected him. "I distinctly remember that day."
When asked to describe their family Patrick said, "Cougar crazy," and Collin agreed.
Collin was recruited out of high school and earned a starting position as a true freshman by the end of last season. So many of their relatives went to WSU that Patrick and Collin have lost count. Their father Jerry, a quarterback for the Cougars in the late `60s, remains in the record books. Still, Collin said he had a choice in where to go.
"My dad said, `You know Collin, it's your choice, but I'm biased towards Washington State and I think you'll have more fun there and I think you'll have success there'," Collin said. "I visited UW and I visited here and it just felt right. I was used to it. I just felt like it was my home away from home because I've been here so many times visiting my grandparents."
The boys spent many weekends in Pullman, as their grandparents used to live in the Palouse. Their mother Susan (McFaul) and her five sisters and four brothers were born and raised in Pullman, and every one of them attended WSU either as undergrads or for graduate school.
Not only did their mother and nine aunts and uncles on her side have strong ties to WSU, but their father and both his sisters were Cougars as well. Jerry was the first in his family to go to college and subsequently earned three degrees in Pullman. Last year they had four cousins who went here as well.
Cougar athletics has been central to the Henderson family since Jerry broke the career passing record in 1968 with 3,411 yards, which is now ninth in the record books.
With all this Cougar pride, Patrick never considered going anywhere else. He will graduate with a degree in recreation in May, but because he wants to teach, and coach, he plans to get another degree in health and fitness. And he does not plan to leave the Palouse.
"I don't want to go anywhere else," Patrick said, "that would be like I was a back-stabber."
Washington State a given for the Hendersons, and so was football. Patrick started playing when he was nine because he was too small at seven and eight, and he has never wanted to play anything else.
"Everyone in elementary school was soccer crazy," Patrick said. "I didn't want to play soccer, I don't like soccer. I've always wanted to play football, and it seemed like I was the only one."
With his big brother playing and his father coaching, there was no question in Collin's mind about what sport he wanted to play. At six years old he began begging his dad to let him play and recalls his first game of tackle football. It was on August 28th, two days before he started first grade.
"At that age, your helmet is bigger than your whole body," Collin said. "You've got the big helmet and you're only this tall," he said holding his hand about three feet off the ground. Collin played football and basketball for his father, while Patrick stuck to football.
"Our dad coached us in sports since I was eight years old," Collin said. "I've been blessed having him as a coach and a father because he knows a lot about the game. He's taught me a lot about football and basketball."
In addition to teaching his sons about sports, Jerry Henderson taught his sons about being students and hard workers.
"He is a very smart man," Patrick said about his father who has a Ph.D. from WSU. "He got the job done, he knew how to do it. He wasn't just an athlete, he was a student."
It seems that Patrick and Collin inherited that same work ethic on and off the field. Wide receiver coach Mike Levenseller spoke highly of both athletes and their different roles on the team.
"Pat has improved drastically as a player," Levenseller said, "and probably done as good of job as any player I've ever had with the tools he was given."
Patrick has never missed or been late to a practice since coming to Washington State. He was only able to do warm-ups earlier in the year when he broke his hand and had to sit out for three weeks, but he was always there. His cast was removed a week ago.
"This summer I stayed here and worked the hardest I've ever worked," Patrick said.
"...Beating everybody in sprints," Collin added in support of his big brother, also pointing out that before Patrick broke his hand he was seeing a lot of repetitions in camp.
"And during camp I was playing the best I felt I've ever played in my life and I broke my hand. I was devastated," Patrick said.
Patrick credits his persistency to football.
"It has taught me about life. Pay your dues and stuff will come back to you," Patrick said explaining that his hard work is paying off. "This is it, bowl game or nothing."
"We're going," Collin agreed. "My goal is to play in a bowl game for sure. I think our fans deserve it and our coaches are putting in a lot of hours. They're working their butts off, and I think we owe it to them too. And I think we owe it to ourselves because almost every player on the team stayed in Pullman this summer, the first time in the history of the program. I think we paid our dues. I think we're due for a bowl game."
With no more hamstring trouble, Collin is ready to help make that happen. He threw for a touchdown against Idaho and has caught 10 passes this season for 108 yards. Coach Levenseller, who recruited Collin out of high school, says that he has probably exceeded expectations by earning a starting role as a true freshman last year.
"He's a really good student," Levenseller said. "He's a student of the game as well. He makes up for anything not given to him athletically by knowing about his opponent. He's a very good athlete, he can do anything, catch it, throw it, probably kick it if we asked him to." Collin has started four of the Cougars' six games this season and he played in all 12 last season, starting in four.
Patrick, a walk-on, also plays an important role in the Cougars' quest for post season play. Levenseller said, "As a scout team player, his job is to help us get ready and he does a great job of that. I think he's evolved as a person by being in the program."
Patrick can't imagine not playing football. It's a way of life for him.
"I'm going to have to get a prescription for Prozac or something because I've been doing this since third grade," Patrick said about the approaching end to his football career. "I don't know what I am going to do because after school you go to practice."
But Patrick will still have two years to cheer on his little brother as he intends to stay planted in the Palouse. The two live together and their family comes over from Puyallup on game weekends.
"We're known for getting tickets," Collin says. "We're always trying to make deals to find someone who has tickets."
Twelve at least Patrick added. The Hendersons have family at every game.
"Every weekend when the Cougs play football it's a family affair," Jerry Henderson said. "It's a tradition we've developed in the family."
A tradition that was established long before Patrick and Collin were thinking about college.
"When we were in high school, it was a weekend deal with the family," Patrick said. "They'd come Friday night and watch the high school game, stay the night, watch the Cougars on Saturday, and watch the Seahawks on Sunday. I miss those times."
Aunts and uncles came from as far as Portland for the football weekends.
"We kind of relive the weekends every once in a while," Collin said. "When we had a bye weekend we went home and kind of did the same thing. We've been blessed to have great family support."
With three years between them, the boys never played together in high school.
"Last year was the first time I've ever played with him on the same team," Collin said. "It's kind of cool because his locker is next to mine, so I can borrow something like a shirt or gloves. It's real convenient having your brother there."
"I use his deodorant," Patrick added. Now that's family!