The Huddle: Learning how to lead

The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior nose guard and defensive end Ashton Henderson of Jenks (Jenks, Okla.) discusses his acceptance of the need to improve as a player and a leader. A 6-foot-1, 307-pound B-average student, Henderson is being recruited by Arkansas, Louisville and Tulsa, among others.

Henderson learned that a focus on self-improvement is a defining characteristic as a team leader. A year ago, Henderson totaled 72 tackles, six sacks and a pair of pass blocks and fumble recoveries to lead his Trojans to a 13-1 record and the Class 6A state finals.

This year’s Trojans are 9-2 and in the midst of another state playoff run and face Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.) this coming weekend in the second round. Although neither Henderson's numbers, nor his team's overall record is what it was a year ago, the senior has looked directly in the mirror.

"When things happen wrong, since you're a team captain, and because of your athletic abilities, people look directly at you," said Henderson.

"So, to me, I honestly believe that it can be an advantage and also a disadvantage being a captain," said Henderson. "When things are going right, everybody is happy. You're under pressure, but you're blessed at the same time."

Henderson chooses to look inward.

"Sometimes, if things go wrong, and the coaches feel like you're not producing, what you do is you focus on yourself," said Henderson. "You can't change others unless you change yourself first. So maybe you need to break down film on yourself to see what you can do to become a better athlete."

Beyond that, "You encourage your teammates. When they need a foot in their behind, you provide that. Sometimes, all it takes is a slap on the back, but you have to learn the difference," said Henderson.

"It's a team sport and everybody has to do their job. I want to get better as a player, but at the same time, I want to make everybody around me better emotionally, mentally and physically."

ROLE MODEL: Warren Sapp, former NFL great "Because he played defensive tackle, and no matter who blocks him or how many people tried to block him, he was always causing havoc."