MANKATO, Minn. -- E.J. Henderson, the popular middle linebacker who returned from a broken left leg to reach the Pro Bowl for the first time at age 31, is back in the Minnesota Vikings organization.
The team named Henderson its youth football manager on Wednesday, picking him over 150 other candidates to run their community initiatives and continue some of the work he was doing with kids when he was a player.
'“I’m super excited. I’ve been dealing with youth football with the Vikings since I was a player and even after I retired,” Henderson said. “This is kind of an extension of that and I’m excited about it.”
Henderson will work to promote safety initiatives in the state, like the NFL-sponsored Heads Up Football program, which has lagged somewhat in Minnesota since it went national last year. According to USA Football's website, only 43 youth associations in Minnesota are part of the Heads Up program, compared to 193 in Iowa and 91 in Wisconsin.
The linebacker could find plenty of work promoting the initiative, and youth football in general, in greater Minnesota; Henderson said he wants to promote the game in outstate areas, to "spread the Vikings' message and spread the love about our sport."
The son of a youth center worker, Henderson credits the time he spent there with helping him stay out of trouble as he was growing up in Maryland. Being back with the Vikings, he said, is like returning to family.
"It feels like I never left," Henderson said. "I'll be back at the [team] complex, where I went to work for nine-plus years. That's where I'll be going to work now. It should be a pretty smooth transition."