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William Henderson Feature


William Henderson has two dreams.

Each represents a radically different ideal, but both provide insight to one of the Packers' most introspective and pleasurable personalities.

The sixth-year fullback has long been the team's offensive brute, a one-man wrecking crew whose main function is to bust through opposing lines and create room for ball carriers like Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green.

Henderson's role rarely involves streaking out of the backfield with the ball; he carried just twice for 16 yards during the 2000 season, but he displays remarkably able hands when given an opportunity to make plays as a receiver. He ranked fifth on the team with 33 receptions and has averaged 34 grabs over the last four seasons.

"He's unselfish, never complains about not touching the ball, but when he does touch it, he gives a great effort," says Offensive Coordinator Tom Rossley. "Whenever we need him, he's there. And he's always there when we need a block."

The 253-pound University of North Carolina alumnus willingly accepts his thankless responsibilities and even lends his services on special teams, a rare task for a five-year offensive starter. However, his selflessness shouldn't be confused with a lack of desire or apathy for recognition.

"I'm not going to lie," Henderson says. "I would love to carry the ball a great deal more. I'd love to possess the ball as many ways and as many times as I can, because that's pretty much the only way you get noticed in the NFL. The Tony Bosellis (famed Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle) are rare beasts that get noticed for being all-out linemen. I've gotten a lot of recognition for my blocking ability, but I'm never considered one of the top fullbacks because I don't carry the ball more. I don't put it ahead of team goals, but I would like to be considered the best fullback in the NFL. That means I have to touch the ball more."

For the time being, though, the Packers' coaching staff has a good idea of how to use one of the league's strongest blockers.

"He's a worker," Rossley says. "He comes to work every day. Knock on wood, he's always there. He shows up, and he's the same every day. He's a blue collar guy -- that's why we have him -- to be a big blocker on most of our plays, run or pass."

The perfect game

However he's used, Henderson understands the importance of setting the tone for the rest of the Green Bay offense, which relies heavily on the fullback to establish a running game.

"Sometimes I consider myself a back, sometimes I consider myself a lineman," he says. "I'm not a featured player because that's not the role of a true NFL fullback. I am a grunt. I go out there to be the catalyst that gets the momentum of the team going. First play, first hit. They expect it to be a major one, just to let the opposing team know that they're in for a battle the entire time."

Which leads to the first of Henderson's two defining visions. A quarterback who has a "perfect game" achieves a mark of 158.3 in the league's nearly incomprehensible rating system that takes into account completions, yards, touchdowns and other factors.

Henderson's version of the ultimate Sunday afternoon is hardly that complex. Numbers account for very little other than the casualties he leaves in his devastating path.

"I'm in search of the perfect game," he explains. "I've never had one -- don't think I'll ever have one. I'm my own worst critic. But I'm always searching for that game when I have total domination blocking. "Total domination is when every lineman, defensive back or linebacker I hit finds himself on his backside, every play of the game. I haven't had that game yet, and so I haven't had a perfect game."

Though his hunger for absolute destruction most likely will remain unquenchable, it won't be for lack of opportunities.

Henderson has played in 95 consecutive games, the third-longest streak on the team behind fellow iron men Brett Favre (143) and LeRoy Butler (107).

During a season in which several key performers have been sidelined with injuries, Henderson appears stronger than ever and shows very little wear.

"It's a nice thing to think about," he says of his good health.

"I'm a very fortunate person. I know how quickly injuries can come about, but I'm not going to feel any better about it. I just hope I can keep doing it. It's one of those things where it's just God's blessing that I haven't been injured more. I give a lot of credit to my brothers who used to beat me up and make me tough so that I can go out there and play through injuries."

Three down, a world to go

Those who find themselves on the receiving end of a Henderson block may not be the first to perceive his deep, caring nature that underlies his on-field toughness. One of the most benevolent members of the Packers' roster, he's been active with over a dozen charities and non-profit events, including Special Olympics, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Milwaukee's Parklawn YMCA, the first YMCA in the country to be constructed in a housing project.

"My desire for helping the community and doing the things I do is just for the simple fact that I'm a Christian," he says. "I believe the Lord has given us a lot of opportunities, and to whom much is given, much is asked in return, and I try to give as much as I can.

"I just go out there with the heart that I'm giving and don't look for anything in return, but hopefully somebody will get the bug and go forth and try to help out in some way, shape or form. My community had a great part in my upbringing and getting to the level I'm at financially, academically and everything else I've been blessed with, and hopefully I can go forward and give someone a little extra by the way I reach them."

Long before Warner Brothers released the 2000 hit movie Pay It Forward, Henderson subscribed to a revelation featured in the movie that suggests a world-changing philosophy of good deeds being repaid with kindness to others.

"You try your best to help three people out in life," Henderson clarifies.

"In whatever way you choose, just help three. And in helping three people, I also ask them to in turn help three, and remind them to do the same thing. We'll cover the world in no time at all if it takes over -- kind of like the domino effect."

Most may consider it even more of a fantasy than his perfect-game scenario, but Henderson plans on living out his aspirations with the same head of steam with which he attacks defenders on the football field.

"If you get people thinking like that, hopefully it will be some type of infectious situation where everyone will start doing it, and we'll create some more peace in this world, as chaotic as we always have it. That's just an idea and a dream I hold."

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