Stories about brothers who play high school football together are nothing new.
Denham Springs linemen Jon and Justin Henderson add a different dimension — literally and figuratively.
Jon Henderson is a junior and one of the largest high school players in the Baton Rouge area. He stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 360 pounds and plays right tackle for the Yellow Jackets.
Also part of the rotation of linemen is freshman Justin Henderson, who is 6-6 and weighs 325. He plays left tackle.
“It’s fun playing with my little brother,” Jon Henderson said. “When you play football, the team is your family. (Justin) is blood. He’s doing pretty well. He carries himself well, but he’s got a lot to learn.
“He doesn’t know all the steps you use when we run certain plays, but he’s learning. I can tell he’s getting better.”
Denham Springs (1-1) faces a tall order of its own in fifth-ranked Catholic High (2-0) in a nondistrict 5A game Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
Having a Henderson on the offensive line is nothing new for DSHS coach Dru Nettles. Older brother Joe was a four-year starter for DSHS and is now a senior engineering major at LSU. The youngest brother, 12-year-old Jacob, is 6-2, weighs 220 and is larger than any of his brothers at the same age.
“Joe was about 6-2 and weighed 300,” Nettles said. “Jon and Justin are in a different category when it comes to size. We do like to run the ball here, so having guys their size is a good thing.
“Jon’s last two to three weeks have been the best he’s had since he’s been here. He played every snap against Salmen last week and did a good job. We feel like with him and Dylan Cambre together, we’ve got a force on the right side of our line.”
The brothers downplay any notion of any sibling rivalry. Justin said he feels a certain amount of pressure as he follows in the footsteps of two brothers who earned starting positions as freshmen.
“I’m trying to keep the same pace that both of my brothers set as freshmen,” Justin said. “I don’t want to let anybody down. I want to show I can compete like they did. So far, I love it.
“The biggest adjustment for me has been the speed. Both the speed of the game and of the players. Going from eighth to varsity brought a lot of changes I wasn’t really ready for at first. I could get away with not always trying my hardest in eighth grade, but not now.”
Nettles said the fact that Justin Henderson was able to participate in spring practice and summer workouts was a plus in his development.
“Any time a freshman has to play with older kids outside of learning the plays, there’s also the pace of the game to learn and some maturity issues,” Nettles said. “It’s a different kind of growth, because he’s not around his ninth-grade buddies. We see improvement week in and week out and he’ll be a factor as the season goes on. Justin’s made the adjustments.”
Both Hendersons are honor students. Justin carried a 3.0 grade point average in middle school and Jon has a 3.4. Jon credits his older brother, Joe, with making football an option for him.
“If (Joe) hadn’t played football, I wouldn’t have,” Jon said. “We were home-schooled when we were younger, and I didn’t start playing sports until we enrolled in a public school in middle school. He played football and I wanted to.”
One question for Jon involves college football. To date, he has heard from a handful of schools, including Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I’ve got to keep working on my agility and flexibility,” he said. “The last time I ran the 40 it was either a 5.9 or a 6.0. I need to get better at that. Being able to move side-to-side is important too. I can’t let the smaller guys get past me.”
Nettles said he reminds Jon to watch what he eats and points out that getting in shape and staying in shape is tougher for larger players.
“For guys that who get that big so fast, it’s hard for them to keep their strength level up,” Nettles said. “Jon’s flexibility was much better in the spring and summer. He needs to work to maintain and improve that.
“I think he can play maybe tackle or guard on the inside at college. He has that size, which is something you can’t coach. He passes the eye test, which is part of recruiting.”