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Hogs Haven chats with Redskins LB Robert Henson

Robert Henson with newlywed wife Sarah.
Robert Henson with newlywed wife Sarah.

Ken (Sugar) and I had the great opportunity to spend dinner with 6th round pick Robert Henson, his new wife Sarah, and her son Malichi last Wednesday at the Red, Hot, and Blue in Ashburn. We really appreciate the time they took to meet with us, and I would like to also thank Robert's agent, Pat Capra, for being so cooperative in helping set this up.  We covered everything from his offseason progression, TCU, draft day, Jason Taylor, London Fletcher, Deion Sanders, Madden Football, Colt Brennan, tough guy Ethan Albright and how the Redskins are improving. When we first sat down, we learned that Robert was three hours away from receiving his degree at TCU in criminal justice. So congratulations to Robert. I of course mentioned that the Bengals could certainly use his knowledge once his playing days are over.

The first topic we touched on was draft day. Robert told us that only a few teams had really spoken to him seriously leading up to the draft (Texans, Colts, Chargers).

Sugar: How did you come to be drafted by the Skins? Was there a connection? A coach, or former teammate with ties to the Washington organization?

Sarah: Well, Vinny Cerrato's sister goes to the same church as our family. I happened to see her in the last week or two leading up to the draft, and of course was like, "Put in a good word for Robert!"

Robert: It ended up working out for us. Vinny was able to call his sister and get some background on me and some of the "supposed" character issues that I had. It was easy for him to figure out quickly that there was nothing to those stories.

Sugar: Did Vinny call you when we picked you? Who called you?

Robert: Dan Snyder called me. It was very cool.

Kevin: TCU plays a similar defense to the Redskins but they actually ran a 4-2-5. That will help you I'd imagine.

Robert: The TCU zone blitz. I had to cover receivers man-to-man. Vertical and out. It teaches you patience and the right angles and all of that. 

Kevin: So it's settled. You and London can be the two.

Robert: [laughing] London is definitely up on all the plays. I've seen him make checks that even the coaches didn't notice. And the coaches will be like "that's a good idea" and write it down. London's the most under-rated LB I know. He's not flashy. He makes plays and then gets back up and goes into the huddle. He's not a Ray Lewis-type which is my type of football. I celebrate a lot. Emotional. I'm crazy on the field. I'm a different person. But from what I heard London is the same way. I'm learning a lot from him. He's not giving me too much though because at the end of the day this is a competition, and I respect that. KO [LB coach Kirk Olivadotti] though been helping me a lot. 

Sugar: Seeing some of the the youtube tape of your skills, I think you'd be able to contribute to special teams right away. Do you think you'll be able to crack that lineup right away? 

Robert: Oh yea. I feel like I can. Danny [Smith]'s been doing a great job working with me and helping me learn the concepts. What I like about him is he always puts us in a position to win.

If you look at my career at TCU, that's all I did. First 3 years I thought I'd jump into the starting role but it didn't happen. So the first 3 years I played with a vengeance on special teams, busting my ass there, so it'll probably be the same way here.  Danny's been helping me learn the concepts and putting me in a position to win. Even in OTAs I was doing a good job in special teams. I can't wait. I'd give ANYTHING to be on the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl. I would have been screaming down the field! It'd be crazy. 

Sugar: They outlawed the wedge you know?

Robert: Doesn't matter. I'll run down there and knock people out.

Sugar then brought up how Cooley's rookie year he had to play the wedge, getting cracked each time--just before they outlawed that formation. Too bad there's no video of this.

Robert: Man, the NFC East is tight. I know the press is going to give it to the Eagles or Cowboys, but that's alright, I like being the underdog.    

Sugar: Come across any fans or players yet regarding the Cowboys rivalry?

Robert: Yea, it's one of the more storied rivalries. I used to think there was some respect there but there isn't. What game was it they didn't shake hands?

Kevin: I think that's every game. I know Smoot one year sat down all the rookies and brought them up to speed on what the Cowboys games mean to this city.

Robert: You know, I said I wasn't going to be star-struck coming here, but it's crazy going to be playing next to these guys.

Sugar: Who's the biggest name you saw that you were like "Wow."

KevinE: Hunter Smith?

Robert: Ethan Albright! [laughing] 

Sugar: The Red Snapper!

Robert: I'll never forget the first day of punting meetings....Ethan walked up to me and said, "I see they got you at left guard. You better punch that damn A-gap or if you don't I'm gonna punch your ass. I'm a 16-year vet and I'm not going to be running down the field chasing somebody because you made a mistake." [laughing]   

Robert: I see great players and I always want to know if they can take a hit.

Kevin: So you won't have any problems if Brandon Jacobs is coming at you full steam?

Robert: Anytime a RB that big makes into the secondary, it's not going to be good. I've see LaRon knock some people out. I got ran over by Garrett Wolfe in college. It was because he had better position. I was coming off a block and he just ran through me.

KevinE: Gary Wolfe was a punter, right?

Robert: [laughing] That game was crazy. LT came in the locker room at half and said 'Do not let this guy pass me in yards,' but in this defensive scheme, if you can run and tackle, playing mic, you're going to have a successful career.

...time to order. We both go with the ribs and iced tea. Robert went with the ribs and shrimp as well. I wish I knew Garrett Wolfe was a 5'7 RB...I wouldn't have let that slide so easily!!

Robert: So they just took off all the decals on the rookie helmets.

We then told him the story of Smoot getting hazed as a rookie...getting taped to the goal post.

Robert: It's really tamed down. I remember hearing Colt had to get up and sing but that was really it. It's mostly verbal. The same guy cuts all of our hair so I can be in the middle of a haircut and they'll be like 'get up' so I'm sitting there with half my hair.

Kevin: Doesn't Vinny Cerrato do the haircuts?

Robert:  Haha. No. 

Sugar: Did you meet Dan Snyder when you first got to DC?

Robert: Oh yea. Right away. He was making sure I was situated and everything ... Oh man! I was at Santana's birthday bash at the ESPN Zone and this lady gets up and says to me, "What's going on with Dan Snyder? I don't get the picks we made in this year's draft?" I was thinking to myself, "Ugh.... I'm just gonna let it go." [laughing] I heard a lot of people saying, "Why didn't we draft an offensive lineman in the 6th round?" I like making people eat words. Going from "Why the hell did we pick him" to..."I knew he was the man!"

Kevin: You have a nickname in college? 

Robert: Hen-Dog. [laughing] When I was a freshman they all called me Hen-Pup. I hate it. [laughing] You gotta earn your nickname.

Sarah: That's what I still call him.

We then began started talking about Albert Haynesworth...

Robert: Little Albert is quite a character too. His son comes to practice. I look up he'll be on the turf field and I look up again and he's up by the bridge, and I'm like "How did he make it there that quick?"

KevinE: How old is he?

Robert: Probably 9. Albert's a monster. I would love to play behind him. The first 5 yards are on him. What you do with those first 5 yards is up to you. 5 yards just to run and in a game of inches it makes all the difference.

Yea. When I talked to Coach Olivadotti the day of the draft he said, "I like the way you tackle in open space and every LB I bring in has gotta be able to tackle." H.B. [Blades] is the same way.

Kevin: Did you guys do that at TCU too?  Where your front four hold the line? Because that's where some fans get antsy...paying Albert all this money and not letting him drive forward.

Robert: Yea, we did that. I think people will be shocked with Albert this year. I know a lot of people said once he got that big contract he wasn't gonna play. But he's been working his ass off. And I'm not saying that just because I'm his teammate. I see it every day and he's working his ass off.

Sugar: Adding a guy like him on defense is big for us. It should help with getting sacks, turnovers...the big plays, you know?

Robert: You know what. No offense to Jason Taylor...he's a great player, great speed rusher, but he was getting knocked back on the run. He's more of a finesse player. He's not into the big hits and only got them when the quarterback had his back to him. I think age has caught up to him too. That first step used to be fast watching him with the was like a blur. He's still got it, but not like he used to.

Kevin: Not for $8 mil! ha.

Re-fills of ice tea. We started talking about how the defense is called in and learning the play calls.

Robert: Man, all those hand signals coming from the sidelines [in college], that's no good. Now...what a blessing it is no more hand-signals. They call in the play. I'm glad we're mic'd up.

Kevin: You mic'd up?

Robert: Yeah, I have been practicing some with the mic.

Sugar: They'll move you all around on this squad...the coaches here do a good job of that.

Robert: Yea I was watching film on one game and HB played every position.

KevinE: It's funny to see that both HB and London are 5'10.

Robert: Yea [laughing]. Everyone's like 'you're bigger than all of the other LBs.'

KevinE: What do you think London's 40 is right now?

Robert: I'd give him a 4'6. It's crazy...his legs are moving!

Sugar: Who is the fastest man on the team?

Robert: Keith Eloi. 4.21 or 4.23. Alridge is another fast one. I like little guys that. They make a wrong cut and you can knock em out though. Marcus Mason is another fast one.

Sugar: So you've probably seen the schedule by now. You scoped it out?  

Robert: I told myself I'm not going to look at the schedule until I make the 53.

Sugar: What about some other guys you played in college with the last year or two.

Robert: Our safety last year Stephen Hodge got drafted by the Cowboys. We were playing up the rivalry. Jason Phillips went to Baltimore. The last few years we haven't got much respect in the draft. Two guys made it last year. David Roach the Safety (Rams) and David Hawthorne to Seattle. We'll see each other game day.

Sarah Henson: They have a wager already.

Robert: If we win, he has to wear a Redskins jersey for the week and vice versa.

Kevin: Oh should make him wear a Redskins' Deion Sanders jersey.

Robert: I was up here after mini-camp in the airport and I had all my Skins gear on and everyone was like 'Hey, congratulations!' and I forgot I was flying home to Dallas so I got off the plane and everyone was like "What the hell is wrong with you?" and I'm getting crazy looks. Man...the day after the draft. I could not find any Skins gear anywhere. Nothing. All I found was a draft cap.

Kevin: Did you ever look at your scout profiles online before the draft and how accurate they were?

Robert: Sarah told me not to read those things because she thinks it'll get me down, but my whole life has been proving people wrong. Everybody has this perception about me that I'm an average player. If you ask me, I step up every time and surpass expectations.

Sugar: And they're wrong more than they are right.

Robert: Yea, I mean these are the people that live in their mom's basement and blog. One guy said I was too aggressive or something like that and I'm bad on the play-action. I don't know.

KevinE: Well, it doesn't  matter now because you're in the League. So I printed out one...I can read it to you and see what you think.  

Robert: Haha, OK. 

Kevin: "Henson is a natural athlete with great agility and speed (4.61). He moves fluidly and has excellent lateral range. He lacks upper the body strength to take on double teams, and also lacks pass rushing skills. Struggling to shed blockers."

Robert: That’s true [shedding blockers].  

Kevin: Henson also tends to over pursue against the run.

Robert: No.

Kevin: He has also missed some tackles and he needs to work on his fundamentals.

Robert: Everyone misses tackles. That’s crazy. [laughing]

Kevin: I read that you worked with T.J. Slaughter on hand placement. When was that?

Robert: When I was at PrimeU...yeah, shedding tackles. And KO has done a great job with that. He makes me hit the bag everyday. So I’m learning proper hand placement. Not to say anything bad about my TCU coaches, we just didn’t do a lot of fundamental drills. Everything was so cerebral and fast-paced,  you just had to be smart and make sure you were in the right position. And in college I never really had to take on blockers. I could just do hand-movements and run around people. At this level I’m gonna meet some offensive lineman, you know? This defense is built to run over the top. I’ve learned how critical the first 2 steps are and they can’t be wasted.

(There is video of Robert at Prime U with Deion)

Sugar: TCU jumps off the page defensively. Second in the nation last year?

Robert: We didn’t get respect because of the conference we played in. We have BYU and Utah, but we played some good RBs. We’ve only given up 100 yards twice in my career. One was to SMU which was a fluke and then Devin Moore. He earned EVERY yard. We were knocking him around. He’s a good RB. I was licking my chops to play Ian Johnson.

Kevin: How is Cody Glenn looking?

Robert: Cody’s looking good, man. We’re pushing each other in the weight room every day. We were doing 7 on 7 today and me and him were in the huddle talking getting everyone riled up. He’s going to be a good guy to have in the locker room. For real.

Sugar: And Orakpo?  

Robert: Orakpo is crazy strong. I think a lot of people will be surprised at how well he’ll fit into this defense. KO is drilling him about his coverages and is getting him right-ready. He’s working hard in the weight room too. He’s doing everything to be successful. His pass rush is crazy. In OTA’s he did a good job of getting that inside hand on that blocker. Shedding em like crazy.

Kevin. Was he going against Chris Samuels?

Robert: No…he was going against Jeremy Bridges…maybe Heyer. I can’t remember. But we’re not in pads so…

Sugar: What do you see in Jason Campbell?

Robert: Man. Jason is working hard. He definitely throws the ball further than a lot of people think he can. He can launch. I think people underestimate him. It’s just my personal opinion from looking at last year, but after Santana, he didn’t really have a reliable second option for any length of time. Malcolm’s coming along. He’s looking real good. He’s making crazy catches.

I think when you see how big he is, you’re like "I can run with him." But he’s fast. Deceptively fast. And don’t sleep on Devin. Roydell made some good plays. Eloi is a good receiver.

Kevin: At TCU you were on the leadership council, were the verbal leader, and did a lot of off-field stuff with your teammates to build chemistry. You finding any of that here in DC? Hang out with players off the field?

Robert: Lately I’ve just been going home. Right now my best friend is the film room, KO and Danny Smith [laughing].  I’ve been hanging out with them more than anybody. All the rookies we try to go out and do stuff. They’re at a movie right now. Bowling and all that stuff.

Sugar: "The Hangover"?

Robert: Nah. "Transformers" I think. I saw "The Hangover" last week. 

KevinE: So you're not hanging with Fred?

Robert: Haha. No. I’ve seen a lot of guys make mistakes. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just go straight home and rarely go out.

Sugar: They spend a lot of time harping on that with you guys? Making sure the rookies be careful?

Robert: Coach Zorn mentioned it a couple times to keep your mind on your business and your business is football, but no, not really. It’s easy to make a mistake. Stallworth and all those guys. Everyone goes there separate way after practice. My first year at TCU was fun-fun-fun, but it gets old. I represent myself and my family. If I do something then it affects everyone not to mention it will get blown out of proportion.

Sugar: What’s the rest of your summer looking like?

Robert: Workouts. And I’ll meet up with Prime [Deion Sanders] and Omar [Stoutmire] again. Crazy that they both played here in DC too. 

We started talking about Jeff George, which was quite comical…

Robert: You know who can still throw? TC. Todd Collins. He can THROW. I was dropping back in coverage thinking I was about to get him and that ball was there! I wouldn’t sleep on Colt Brennan either. Colt’s arm is crazy. You know what messes me up is his release. Most of the time you can time a quarterback’s release but that sidearm.

Sugar: The coaches get on him for that?

Robert: I haven’t been really paying attention to that. I’m mixed up in my own battles. I can’t touch the ball when he throws, but I’ll try to change that in training camp. I remember watching him in your pre-season game last year, and he did real good. Chase Daniel is faster than I thought he was. He was scrambling on one way and I had to get on my horse to go and get him. Haha. He’s smart. VERY smart. We were doing 7 on 7 today, and actually they only had 5 players. He was drawing up routes telling them what to run to get around certain players.

Kevin: So you’re #58…do you know of Wilbur Marshall?

Robert: Yea, I've heard of him. Well, one name I’ve heard a lot is Sam Huff. I got in trouble for not knowing the famous TCU guy that came to the Redskins. Sammy Baugh. I got in trouble for that one. But I know now.

(Quick note on Sammy Baugh at TCU: Sammy led TCU to two bowl game wins, a 3-2 victory over Louisiana State in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, and a 16-6 victory over Marquette in the first annual Cotton Bowl in 1937 after which he was named MVP. He finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1936.)

We wrapped up our dinner spending ten minutes talking about Madden. Robert claims he can beat anyone on any system. He openly challenged a few Skins but had no takers. I reminded him to ask Devin Thomas since he recently won a Madden tournament. Who you got your money on for that game? I'm taking Robert.

Out in the parking lot he had a brand new Mercedes S550 he was trying out, with an Easterns Motors sticker on the window. I asked him if we would ever be seeing him sing the "Your job's your credit!" song but he has no desire to sing it. Ever.

I can't say enough at how impressed I was by #58's motivation. You couldn't ask any more from a player when you see someone working this hard both on and off the field. If you still question his desire to compete, he knocked TWO Quarterbacks out of one game versus Wyoming. Here are some great video highlights of his TCU days from our draft-day write-up. It's equally impressive to see how much film time these guys are already putting in. With Robert's physical frame and speed, and everything he is absorbing from London, this kid's going to go real far. He reminded me of a quote that Deion Sanders pushes in his PrimeU camp, which motivates him:

"It's your physical ability that gets you to the NFL, it's your mind that keeps you here."