William Henderson: Everybody's Big Brother
Before he even picked up a football, William Henderson was picking up his neighborhood. At five years old, Henderson began doing community service by cleaning up the streets and helping older people do their yard work in his neighborhood.
Twenty-two years later Henderson's life has changed drastically. Once a young, scared kid from Chester, Virginia, Henderson has since become the starting fullback for the Green Bay Packers. One thing that has remained the same though, is Henderson's willingness to help and motivate others, especially children.
"I've seen a lot of people older than me as well as younger than me kind of fall by the wayside and not live up to their potential because they didn't have the right focus or the right people motivating them," Henderson says. "Plus, I'm a Christian and that has a lot to do with it too."
In just four years with the Green Bay Packers, Henderson has made himself extremely visible and active in the community. Sherry Schuldes, the team's director of family programs, says that Henderson is by far the most active player to come through her department.
"William has a great personality," Schuldes says. "He is a genuine, young and quality individual who always goes above and beyond the call of duty. He is a fine representative for the Green Bay Packers."
Henderson has been involved in both Wisconsin and North Carolina with many charities, including the Special Olympics, the Leukemia Society, the Crippled Children's Fund, the Rainbow Games and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Henderson also worked with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and has made several hospital and school visits at all levels of his career.
Henderson says that he has had a lot of motivating forces in his life, but the ones that stick out most in his mind are his three older brothers.
"I had three brothers who were all great athletes and had the potential to be professional athletes, but, because of injury or other situations, didn't know what direction to live the rest of their lives," Henderson says. "They weren't headed in the right direction. Me being the youngest, I guess I kind of saw what they did and learned from their mistakes. I used that to motivate me."
This past June, Henderson spent a week speaking to a group of American soldiers stationed in Wuersberg, Germany. Henderson spent from about 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. talking to the troops, playing football with them, hanging out with them and letting them know that their work was appreciated.
"My motivation to go over to Germany was mostly because my brother-in-law was in the military," Henderson says. "Because he was serving overseas, he missed the first year of his son's life and also the first year of my professional career."
Henderson says that he went to Germany to tell the troops thanks for giving up the things that we take for granted, such as being close to our family and friends. He also told the younger members of the troops how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to travel abroad.
"I wanted to let them know how proud their parents are of them and to make the most of the opportunity they have been given," Henderson says. "I also told them to make sure that they do the right thing for themselves and to make sure that the people you call your friends are really your friends and won't put you in a bad situation."
If traveling across the world to do community work in the off season wasn't enough, Henderson currently is working to start a new foundation, called 'Henderson's Heroes,' in collaboration with Dreams Come True Entertainment of Milwaukee. The foundation consists of a group of commercials by Warner Cable that will ask for citizens to write in and nominate students in 6th to 12th grade, who excel in academics and are active in community-related work.
From those nominations, 12 young people will be selected for an adventure to Green Bay. The kids will take a bus to Green Bay, where they will go through the Packers Experience and the Packer Hall of Fame. After that, they will have dinner with Henderson and attend a Packers home game.
The president of Dreams Come True Entertainment, Darryn DeWalt, says that Henderson's efforts truly will benefit the inner-city youth of Milwaukee and its surrounding areas.
"William really loves kids," DeWalt says. "He has a soft, kind heart and he really wants to see everybody do well and have the incentive to do well. I can't say enough about William - he is everybody's big brother. I truly believe that he just wants to see kids have success."
Henderson's career continues to blossom as one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL and also as one of the most popular players in the community. He is everyone's big brother, one who will always reach out a hand to help.
"I hate to see people waste their opportunities," Henderson says.
"It's better for me to be out there and be a positive force than to sit back and watch people give up. I get a lot of satisfaction out of making people smile. I also get a great feeling of pride when I push someone else in the right direction and see them have success. I guess you could call it a natural euphoria."
From a special person, to be sure.