Athlete signs with NFL agent to pursue dream

Hayden Henderson looks on during the 2016 Division II National Championship Game against Northwest Missouri State at Kansas City, Kansas. Henderson said he hopes to attract an NFL team at a regional combine and attain his dream of playing football professionally as he signed with NFL agent Scott Bergman.

by Associate Sports Editor Jacob Cole

Hayden Henderson’s time at North Alabama might be over, but his pursuit of the NFL has hit full stride.

Henderson signed with agent Scott Bergman to pursue his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL after his dad, Keith Henderson, had an opportunity to play, but declined.

“My dad played for Jacksonville State and had a chance to play for the Kansas City Chiefs,” Henderson said. “Dad regrets not taking that opportunity, so my family is supporting me in my decision.”

Bergman specializes in representing players from smaller schools. Henderson said he hopes this move helps his stock so Henderson can make it to an NFL mini-camp.

“His maturity and leadership can help him,” Bergman said. “He can play multiple roles, and he does a good job of reading plays.”

Henderson contributed on special teams for the UNA football team that made an appearance in the 2016 Division II National Championship. Henderson also split time with fellow senior Ryan Harper at fullback.

This attitude helps Henderson push forward and work for his shot to play professionally, he said.

Henderson’s work ethic is his best quality, according to UNA runningbacks coach Courtland Hays.

“He practices and plays with passion,” he said. “His heart will help him at the next level because it takes an incredible amount of preparation to be successful. His heart will carry him where he needs to go.”

Henderson’s maturity and leadership are solid qualities to have, but the path to the NFL is narrow.

According to an article from 2014 on NFL.com, only 1.6 percent of college football players make the transition to the professional level.

Bergman chooses a small number of Division II players to represent in their quest to the NFL, Bergman said. Bergman decided to take on Henderson as a client after watching film and also how Henderson carried himself on the field.

Former Lions Eddrick Harris and E.J. Parnell followed suit and signed with Bergman.

Henderson credits the level of competition at UNA for helping him in this transition.

“In my opinion, we play against the best competition in the country,” Henderson said. “All of the players push each other, and the coaches push us. It prepares us on and off the field.”

Playing for a great program, competing at a high level and keeping the right attitude will set Henderson up to force his way into an NFL mini-camp, Bergman said. The goal for Henderson is to impress an NFL team enough to make the 90-man mini-camp roster, he said.

After the 90-man mini-camp, Henderson will try to stand out enough to make a practice squad or even make the 53-man NFL roster, he said.

The NFL Draft starts April 27. The free agent signing period begins immediately after the 2017 draft concludes April 29.