Sept. 18, 2006
Mario Henderson is built like your prototype offensive tackle. At 6-7and weighing in at over 300 pounds, Henderson makes defensive linemen miserable. And with quick feet and a long wingspan, it is almost impossible to get by him.
Former FSU offensive lineman Matt Meinrod knows the talent Henderson has, saying, “He’s quick enough; he’s got the footwork; he’s basically got it all.”
One would think Henderson has been doing this all of his life and that Henderson was meant to play football, but it almost never happened. As a 375 pound freshman in high school, he was always too big to play football in the local youth leagues of Ft. Myers. Instead of spending Friday nights on the gridiron, Henderson and some close friends spent Friday nights on the hard courts.
“We would go to a gated community about 10 minutes from my high school. It had a small gym with one rim about nine feet tall so we would be in there dunking and just having fun,” Henderson said. “We didn’t have a key to the place so we would sit outside and wait until somebody went through the door, and we went behind them. We would play all night until the police would come and kick us out.”
Mario Henderson wasn’t hard to miss as he walked through the halls of Bishop Verot High School. He never thought of himself as a football player, but the potential he had was obvious. As he walked through the hall on a normal day during his freshman year someone very important helped Mario realize his potential.
“I was walking to the office and the football coach saw me and he was like, man you’re huge, have you ever played football? He told me I should give it a shot and try out. I thought about it and I ended up playing my sophomore year,” said Henderson.
Henderson never really took anything too seriously.
“I’m a quiet guy. I’m not a guy you hear yelling and cracking jokes,” Henderson said. “I’ll be the guy that is laughing at them. I’m just cool and laid back — I’ll go with the flow. If somebody says something, it’s fine, that’s how they feel. I won’t try to interject or contradict what somebody is saying. I really don’t say
much to people. I just sit back and listen.”
Growing up, Henderson was always taught that actions speak louder than words. His grandmother helped develop Mario Henderson as a person. She believed that the values he learned off the field would help his game on the field, but most importantly, help develop him into a good man.
“She’s a hard, hard worker,” Henderson said. “She is a God-fearing woman and she brought me to church every Sunday with her. She put those values in me. Every time I see her, she will tell me to get it done, clean up, or pull up my pants. She’s my biggest influence. All she did was to make sure I stayed off the streets and got my academics right. She probably doesn’t even know what position I play.”
As a sophomore in high school, the values that Henderson had learned off the field didn’t seem to help him on the field.
Playing for Bishop Verot High School, he did play up to his capabilities. At 375 pounds, he was too slow to be effective. All he did was basically take up space on the offensive line. Henderson blames his high weight and lack of quickness on his diet.
“McDonalds was right around the corner from my high school. Back then, they had 29-cent hamburgers and 39-cent cheeseburgers on Mondays,” Henderson said. “I would go there for breakfast before school and get a 99-cent sausage biscuit. The lunch lady knew I was a big guy so she would stack my plate when I
had lunch at school. Then, after school I would go back to McDonalds and get 10 cheeseburgers.
If my buddies and I went out that night, then I would go and get about seven more cheeseburgers. From that, I was always called big cheese because I would always have a cheeseburger hanging out of my bag.”
Following his sophomore year, Henderson transferred to Lehigh High School in Lehigh Acres, Fla. He looked at it as a new beginning and began to focus more on football. Not playing football his junior year because of transfer rules, Henderson had time to take control of his future. He began to focus on a healthier diet.
As a result, Henderson became a dominant force on the offensive line and earned a scholarship to FSU.
Now, as a senior offensive tackle for the Seminoles, Henderson has worked hard to earn the nickname “Super Mario.” He has spent three years waiting for the chance to show what he’s made of.
“I worked really hard for this opportunity and I’m ready to go out and show people that I’m ready to play,” said Henderson. Henderson is now in the best shape of his life. As a starting left tackle, Henderson believes he is ready to take on the major responsibility of protecting quarterback Drew Weatherford’s
blind side. Along with the rest of his offensive line, Henderson is out to prove his critics wrong.
With the constant improvement Henderson has made, look for him to have an impressive senior season and future success in the NFL. In the opener against Miami, Henderson proved to be an imposing force on the offensive line by giving up no sacks to an outstanding Miami defense. With his long arms and improved
quickness, look for defenders to struggle against him throughout the season.
By Dustin Ellis FSU Sports Information