Spartans' Henderson eager for homecoming

Henry Palattella
Michigan State defensive back Xavier Henderson trips Ohio State receiver K.J. Hill during a game in East Lansing, Mich., on Nov. 10, 2018. Henderson, a Pickerington Central graduate, will play at Ohio Stadium for the first time when the Spartans face the Buckeyes this week. [Samantha Madar/Dispatch]

Xavier Henderson’s first visit to Ohio Stadium was in 2015 when, as a freshman at Pickerington Central, he was one of the 99,391 who attended Ohio State's spring game.

A year later, Henderson was back, this time as a recruit attending Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights camp.

On Saturday, Henderson will make his third visit to Ohio Stadium. This time, it will be with an upset in mind.

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Henderson is one of 28 Ohioans on Michigan State’s roster who will be headed home for a game against Ohio State.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Henderson said. “I'm really looking forward to it. We know how big of a challenge Ohio State is. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Although Henderson, a sophomore defensive back, grew up 20 minutes from Ohio State’s campus, he grew up a Michigan fan, in part because his father, Allen, is from Detroit. That didn’t stop Xavier from rooting for the Buckeyes on occasion.

“I've always been a Big Ten fan,” he said. “Any time Ohio State played someone from (a different conference) I always rooted for them. I could always see how much everybody in Ohio and Columbus loves Ohio State football.”

Despite his dad’s love for the Wolverines, Henderson committed to Michigan State halfway through his sophomore season. He finished his high school career as a four-star recruit who was ranked as the top cornerback in Ohio. He recorded four interceptions, 77 tackles and six touchdowns during his senior season on the way to a 14-1 record and the Division I championship.

After totaling only 15 tackles last season, Henderson has 27 tackles through five games this season along with his first career interception, two weeks ago against Western Michigan.

Michigan State’s defense has been one of the strongest units in the nation this year, boasting the No. 4 rushing defense (55.8 yards per game) and the No. 14 scoring defense (15 points per game). But this week Henderson and the Spartans take on one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Ohio State's Justin Fields.

“He's great at throwing the deep ball,” Henderson said. “If he gets time back there, which he does a lot, he really puts that ball out there for those guys to run and get."

Despite the homecoming on the national television stage, Henderson said he’s trying to prepare for the game as he would any other.

That hasn’t stopped friends from home from texting him to jokingly let him know that they think Ohio State is going to win in a blowout, texts he says he takes “with a grain of salt.”

While Henderson’s parents have traveled to every one of his games, the proximity of Saturday’s game means that some of his extended family will be able to come, along with his brother.

“I’m going to try to give them something to brag about back in Columbus,” Henderson said.


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