Last night, as the Maryland Terrapins began practicing to face Tennessee in the Peach Bowl, the team's standout linebacker, E.J. Henderson, suited up in a different kind of uniform.
With semiformal attire in tow, Henderson began the postseason awards banquet circuit, which will take him to three cities for four ceremonies in five days.
"I enjoy being up for the awards and appreciate being up for the awards, but nobody enjoys getting up every morning and getting on a plane," Henderson said yesterday from Charlotte, where he attended the presentation of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. "But, it's something you have to do to be able to go to the awards shows."
Henderson led the Terrapins to their second consecutive 10-victory season and repeated as ACC defensive player of the year, and he is a finalist for four national awards. The Nagurski and Bednarik Award are given to the nation's top defensive player. The Rotary Lombardi Award is given to the nation's top lineman. The Butkus Award is given to the nation's top linebacker.
The finalists typically are accompanied by their head coach for each award's ceremony. But because Henderson must attend so many functions, Ralph Friedgen had to ask his star player which one he would like the coach to attend.
Henderson asked Friedgen to attend Friday night's Butkus Award presentation in Orlando; the coach designated assistants Al Seamonson and Rod Sharpless to attend other functions in his place. An athletic department spokesman also is traveling with Henderson throughout the week.
"I would like to go to all of them," said Friedgen, who will have defensive coordinator Gary Blackney and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe run Thursday's practice while he attends a Peach Bowl news conference in Atlanta. "I just don't know how I can do that and prepare for a bowl and recruiting."
Henderson left Sunday for last night's presentation made by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Today, he is scheduled to catch an 8:30 a.m. flight to Houston, where he will spend two days attending functions prior to Wednesday's Lombardi Award presentation. Henderson's schedule in Houston includes two hospital visits and a 7 a.m. wakeup call Wednesday.
"There is a lot of stuff" at each stop, Henderson said. "Every day, they pretty much have something planned out -- going to a hospital, luncheon or sitting down for an autograph session. They've planned out every second. You don't get a lot of down time."
It is "as busy as you can possibly be. . . . I'll probably be tired at the end of the week. [But] I enjoy being out with the other guys."
Henderson was up against Kansas State's Terence Newman, Arizona State's Terrell Suggs, Georgia's David Pollack and Notre Dame's Shane Walton in balloting for the Nagurski Trophy, which Suggs won last night. Henderson's competition for the Butkus Award includes Courtney Watson of Notre Dame and Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma; his competition for the Lombardi Award is Oklahoma's Tommie Harris, Texas's Cory Redding, and Suggs.
On Thursday, Henderson will fly to Orlando for that night's ESPN college football awards show at Disney World. Henderson is one of three finalists for the Bednarik Award, which will be presented by the Maxwell Football Club at Disney World. The Butkus Award is presented by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando in a separate ceremony.
Henderson will have missed a week of graduate classes and practice by the time he returns to campus, but he said he spoke with his professors about arranging makeup work. Henderson also said he would try to find an opening in the schedule for some exercise.
"I'm going to try to get some running and lifting in somewhere, somehow," Henderson said.
Terrapins Note: Tickets for the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday through the athletic department ticket office.