"Always try to make a difference."
It's strange how six words can sound so simple, but be very difficult to live by. William Henderson believes in those words so strongly that almost every time he personalizes an autograph, he makes sure to include that message.
It's only fitting that Henderson preaches that motto, too. After all, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has lived by those words any more than the 10-year fullback has. When it comes to making a difference on or off the field, Henderson is the ultimate spokesman.
The only player on the team who has been with the Packers longer is Brett Favre and anytime you are mentioned in a category with the Hall of Fame gunslinger, it's bound to be a good thing. And Henderson has been able to do it by living each and every day according to his favorite message.
"That's really my motto, my code," Henderson said. "Whatever I do, it's always going to center on making a difference in the positive direction for the team. It's not being unselfish; it's just going out there and doing what you have to do."
However, what makes Henderson special are the things he does without being asked to. When you've been a starter in the league as long as he has, coaches don't often call on you to play special teams, but Henderson relishes the opportunity. He manages to look at the team first and himself second -- also not an easy concept to live by.
In a day and age where many players want all the credit they can get, Henderson sees a bigger picture.
"As long as my team is successful, I'm quite happy with the credit I'm given," Henderson explains. "I'm more excited about finding out how I can continue to be a part of it and continue to help. It really doesn't matter to me how much notoriety I get. I'm supposed to be a lineman and lineman aren't supposed to get a lot of credit for what they do."
Because he is a fullback, what Henderson does often can't be measured in statistics alone. Yet there are a few that should stick out when you talk about the accomplishments of the 6-1, 251-pound athlete.
Henderson tied Howard Griffith's NFL fullback record by blocking for a sixth 1,000 yard rusher in 2003. With Ahman Green on pace to reach that milestone again this season, Henderson will have that record to himself. In addition, he's one of the few players remaining from the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI victory and is the first full-time fullback in Packers annals to reach 200 catches in a career.
Still, it's the work away from the stat sheet that Henderson enjoys the most. He takes on linebackers at full speed on nearly every play and he knows this willingness for punishment will cost him down the line, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"I chose to have this wear and tear on my body for the promotion of the life and opportunity for my family," Henderson said. "I probably have shortened my life and I know that I will be a lot more sore than the average older person my age, but I will have had an exciting life and this is something that not many people get the opportunity to do. And for that, I can't regret it."
Maybe that explains why Henderson does all the dirty work and contributes on special teams. Not only doesn't he mind doing it, he also is very good at it -- last season, Henderson had 16 tackles on special teams.
"With all of this youth we have in the locker room, you would think they would put some of those guys in those positions, but they know that I will get it done better and with a little bit more excitement than the average player anyway," Henderson explained. "I like being on the field."
Clearly, Henderson is someone that everyone can look up to, which may be the defining quality of leadership.
"It's not hard to be a leader," Henderson said. "It's harder for me being a follower and not knowing what direction you are actually going to go in.
"Being a leader, you control your own destiny. That's how I look at it so it is easier for me because I enjoy knowing where I am going versus following and not knowing how to be successful."
It's hard to imagine Henderson being anything but successful. He's the consummate professional and next to his toughness, humility may be his best asset. That's why it's not surprising that his proudest moment relates to helping someone else.
"Through my athletic efforts and what God has blessed me with I was able to retire my father and see him have a wonderful life," Henderson said. "He did all the physical work as a construction worker and now he's been able to take the last few years off and not have to worry about his health insurance and other things like that.
"That means a lot to me because he was one of those sacrificing guys who made sure we had everything we needed. So it's nice to be able to give that back."
Henderson said his parents are responsible for the work ethic that has allowed him to play in 165 of a possible 167 contests. Sure he's been hurt during that time, but he knew his team counted on him so he played through the pain. That's what makes Henderson so reliable.
"It's just being one of those people who always wants to be out there doing what I can," Henderson said of his toughness. "I love this game and I play it with a lot of passion. That's part of it, being unselfish and giving up your body, but you're selfish because you want to be out there."
Well, that's probably the only time you will hear the word selfish associated with Henderson. He continues to work toward great feats on the field, but he knows that when retirement comes he will be prepared to continue helping others. Henderson has worked toward two master's degrees -- one in physical therapy, the other in orthotics and prosthetics.
"My financial success won't be my main motive," Henderson said. "It will be more so the ability to go forward and continue to be a service person. In prosthetics and special therapy, you are still aiding and supporting other people. The whole health care system is basically going out there giving service and helping people. And that's what I want to do."
Henderson has dabbled in broadcasting as well, including calling NFL Europe games for FOX. He said that in the future he would like to pursue that work a little more, but for now his role will remain the same. When he's not on the field, chances are you will find Henderson working with numerous charities, especially those that involve children.
Like nearly everything else he does, that's a role Henderson relishes.
"I try to encourage kids," Henderson said. "I don't mind being that role model for them because I had good role models growing up. Hopefully they can say 'look, let's try to do things the right way.'"
For Henderson it all comes back to a simple motto: "Always try to make a difference."
Perhaps the best part about it is that Henderson will always be the perfect example of someone who does just that.