CUTLER BAY, Fla. — Alabama coach Nick Saban made quite an impression with the parents of 2017 cornerback recruit C.J. Henderson, visiting their home and even giving Henderson’s mother some book recommendations.
But the Crimson Tide never led for his services, and something the family saw on his recruiting visit played a factor in that.
“I forget whose office we were in, but they had position breakdowns and the names of the recruits for that year and you could see about 20 names above Christopher (C.J.) already crossed out so it was kind of obvious, like, ‘OK, we’re scraping the barrel a little bit,'” his mother Prudence Henderson said.
The Tide got involved late in the process as Henderson was already weighing offers from Florida and Miami.
That said, the family was very impressed with Saban and thinks Henderson’s decision might have been even more difficult had the Tide gotten involved earlier.
“Saban could have easily, I think had they been interested earlier, a bond would have been created between the two of them,” Prudence Henderson said.
Said Chris Henderson Sr., C.J.’s father: “Alabama was fun. I really liked Alabama. I think Coach Nick Saban was real good and one of the best coaches out there. … But I think he went with what was good for him.”
In the end, Henderson had a tough enough choice deciding between his hometown Hurricanes and the Gators. He flipped back and forth between the two several times before deciding two days before National Signing Day that he would sign with Florida, he said.
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“I looked at if all the coaches leave at Miami and all of them leave at Florida I would pick Florida. I could see myself there going there for school,” he said.
Interestingly, his very first scholarship offer came from new Florida defensive backs coach Corey Bell, when he was an assistant at Florida Atlantic.
“It was my sophomore year going into my junior year, that spring I got offered by FAU by Coach Bell. It was after my sophomore year, I only had running back film still, and he just told me he liked a lot about me. It meant a lot,” Henderson said.
Now he’ll get to work with Bell in Gainesville, arriving this summer as part of a deep incoming class of defensive backs.
Henderson is rated a 4-star recruit and ranked No. 15 nationally among cornerbacks in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite. He hopes to contribute right away, in any or every capacity. He mentioned that Gators coaches have told him he’ll get a look at potentially returning punts in addition to competing for playing time on defense and working elsewhere on special teams.
“I’m ready to come in and I (can) come in and make an impact on special teams, on the return team and defense,” he said.
The following Q+A is part of SEC Country’s “Recruiting Rewind” series:
Q: Now that it’s over, how do you look back on the recruiting process?
Henderson: “To me it was pretty fun after a while, after my sophomore year getting recruited and stuff. But toward my senior year that’s when it started getting boring.”
Q: Did you have a lot of people trying to offer you advice that final week as you weighed your options?
Henderson: “I didn’t really listen too much. It wasn’t that hard. I just had to focus on where I could see myself staying for the next four years.”
Q: What ultimately sold you on Florida?
Henderson: “Little things, like what I liked about being on campus and I could see myself just staying there when I want to and just how much I like being at Florida.”
Q: Who was hardest coach to say no to in the end?
Henderson: “It had to be Miami and Coach (Mike) Rumph. I was just texting him, I just told him I made my final decision. Because before I had told Florida that at first and I ended up switching, and I told Miami I’m picking Florida.”
Q: Who was the funniest coach during the process?
Henderson: “Probably Coach Bell. He was the first (coach) to offer me and after that he was at USF. He was the only coach to call me like, ‘Bro,’ and stuff like that. He was at USF and he was actually the one that told me to go to Florida.”
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a high school junior about to go through the recruiting process, what would you say?
Henderson: “When you feel like you find a home just stick with that, just commit to it instead of waiting last minute.”
Q: Do you have any regrets looking back on the process?
Q: What school disappointed you the most?
Henderson: “(Nobody). Because Florida was my dream offer and that’s the camp I went to, and after I got that that’s when I knew I could get any offer I wanted probably. So I wasn’t really disappointed in any (school).”
Q: Was there one school that could have had a better chance if they got involved earlier?
Henderson: “No, I can’t even think of any.”
Q: What were you impressions of The Swamp from the games you attended?
Henderson: “I went to Florida and North Texas. … My first game was Florida and Florida State, that was crazy. I just saw how when somebody made a big play how loud it got. That’s when I knew that was the school I wanted (to play for).”
Q: Were any Florida players talking to you during the process?
Henderson: “It was like senior year (they) started talking to me, like Quincy (Wilson) and (Jalen) Tabor.”
Q: What was their input?
Henderson: “It was just the greatest experience of their life. Quincy was just telling me how the fans and school take care of you and stuff.”
Q: Was there one secret you kept through the process or something you held close to the vest?
Henderson: “That Florida was my leader. I couldn’t tell people that. I just went through my process so I still felt I could have looked at other schools and stuff.”
Q: Lastly, if you were in charge of the NCAA, is there anything you’d change about the recruiting process?
Henderson: “Probably how much you get to talk to players. It should be more comfortable instead of having to call at certain hours.”