H.D. Woodson's Ramsey Henderson possesses a clear view of his future

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 11:54 PM

H.D. Woodson offensive lineman Ramsey Henderson, all 6 feet 5, 315 pounds of him, proudly sports a 2008 Turkey Bowl championship ring and is trying to determine where he would like to play college football. He has aspirations of appearing on "SportsCenter."

Not necessarily as a player, however. He would be just as proud to see his name rolling up the screen in the production credits as he would be springing a running back on some highlight loop.

Henderson's two loves - football and videography, in an order that might vary depending on the day - collided Monday at Arena Stage when he was one of six area high school athletes presented with an ESPN Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Rise Above Student-Athlete Award, honors given to high school students at various "Monday Night Football" stops this season.

The award's main criteria are overcoming adversity, earning good grades and doing community service, or some combination thereof. Henderson, a senior at the District school, has all three areas covered. Doctors told him in sixth grade that he could no longer play football, but he later resumed playing after a screw was inserted into his hip. Now he has a scholarship offer from Delaware State, and other schools are showing interest.

Maybe it was during Henderson's six months on crutches when he realized a professional sports playing career might not be possible, but a professional sports career still might be. That was the idea behind the event Monday. The honorees and their family and friends met various local and ESPN sports executives in town for the Monday night game between the Eagles and Redskins and heard first-hand about careers in and around athletics.

"I'm a people person, and I want to pursue a career that I'm comfortable with and do what I love," said Henderson, a friendly guy with a serious face yet quick smile. He grew interested in videography during an elementary school project involving cameras.

"I want to learn what these people have been through, their obstacles, how they managed their time," he said. "I want to learn everything."

Henderson took full advantage of his resources Monday; to him, network is more a verb than a noun. He confidently chatted up the professionals and requested business cards. Later, before the Chalk Talk Luncheon that featured "Monday Night Football" broadcasters and five retired players, Henderson posed for pictures on stage with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. (His one misstep: He didn't ask Snyder for his card).

Henderson and the other student-athlete honorees - H.D. Woodson's Muriel Hamilton, Heritage's Chuck Carlin and Nicole Feaster and Central's LaTisha Swanson and Marquette Hudson - learned the path to a career in the sports industry is not necessarily a linear one. A member of ESPN's marketing department told the students he went from working for the World Wrestling Federation to Country Music Television to the Lifetime network to ESPN.

When a public relations consultant asked the group what the Internet, radio, TV and newspapers had in common, Henderson's first thought was not information but advertising, perhaps a sign of business acumen. A videographer mentioned he created his own major at a small school in Minnesota. Impressed, Henderson whispered, "Created his own major?" That was a possibility he had never thought of but is one now tucked away in his mental Rolodex.

The honorees were introduced by "Monday Night Football" reporter Michele Tafoya and WTEM's Andy Pollin, and the students and other invited guests were treated to a 20-minute breakdown of that night's game by broadcasters Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski. Tafoya and Pollin also led a question and answer session with Jon Jansen, Ken Harvey, Brig Owens, Seth Joyner and Jeremiah Trotter, all former Redskins and/or Eagles.

But Henderson might have been just as enthralled with the video highlights of each player during the introduction.

"What I like most about video production is people don't really give it a whole lot of recognition," said Henderson, whose H.D. Woodson team will face Ballou in the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving. "They look at the actors and the people in front of the camera, but they don't really look at what goes [on] behind the scenes, the editing between commercials, the quick chops that make short videos. I'm a more behind-the-scenes guy."

Not on Thursday. He is one of two College Success Foundation Scholars who will be featured in a video premiering that morning at the Newseum as part of a fundraiser for CSF, an organization that helps high-potential, low-income students attend college.

A few weeks ago, a documentary crew shadowed Henderson to shoot footage of various aspects of his life. He even got to do some filming of his own for the project.

"I love just being around cameras," he said. "It's like second nature for me."

Varsity Letter is a column about high school sports in the Washington area. E-mail Preston Williams at williamsp@washpost.com

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