LJ Henderson is back on the field for his senior year of football, this time in the blue and red of the Camanche uniforms.
The senior made the decision to transfer from Clinton High School last spring, starting almost immediately at Camanche and giving up the first five weeks of his senior football season to do it.
The decision, he says, was based a lot off his future ambitions.
“The main decision was based on family,” Henderson said. “We knew if I wanted to get to the next level and where I want to be in college that Camanche is having a successful year, coming off of a lot of wins and winning culture.”
It wasn’t completely out of the blue. Henderson can pull up pictures of him and other Camanche players from elementary school, barely 4-feet tall and wearing giant basketball jerseys and grins with missing teeth. Meeting up with teammates from his youth wasn’t a huge transition.
“We’ve had friendships since maybe fourth grade and we played with each other all the way until I made the decision to go to Clinton,” Henderson said. “In high school we still kept tabs on each other, still linked up.”
Still, leaving one school and one set of sports programs for another brought a lot along with it. There was speculation and backfire from social media amid the transfer, a lot for a high school athlete who is looking at colleges, starting at a new school, and just trying to be a teenager at the same time.
“The transfer was an up and down kind of situation,” Henderson said. “I got a lot of love but there also was some hate there with the decision I made.”
Henderson watched his teammates play from the sidelines for the first five weeks of the season according to transfer rules.
“It’s never easy standing on the sidelines for anyone,” Henderson said. “To be the one actually doing it, it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Knowing that I’d come back eventually, it was always in the back of my head.”
Jumping into Week 6, he made a difference right away. Henderson came out and accumulated 113 total offensive yards in Camanche’s district win over Louisa-Muscatine, running in two touchdowns in his 63 rushing yards.
The next week, he broke 100 rushing yards, scoring twice yet again.
“It was a long wait,” Henderson said. “Coming into it I knew it would be worth it just to play the sport that I love. To win the two games is an unbelievable feeling.”
Henderson also picked up 16 tackles between the two. He has some natural athleticism, showing it on both the basketball court and the football field. That athleticism makes him fast to get to his spot, but it’s a the mental part of defense that he really enjoys.
“Never backing down is that one thing,” Henderson said.
He has two games left as an Indian now, and never really thought about personal goals. He says he wants to do what he can, but he wanted to come out and be a part of the season the Camanche team is having.
“Personally, I wasn’t too worried about myself because I knew I had to come back and gain some ground that I lost,” Henderson said. The Indians are 5-2 and aiming for an at-large bid for the playoffs. “My main goal was help the team out any way I could”
It’s been a long few months for the transfer, and it’s certainly not going to slow down. He has a two more regular season games to finish, and then possibly more.
Then he has basketball season. The Indians have made postseason pushes consistently, including falling a game short of the state tournament last year and that’s sure to continue.
He also has to decide where he’s headed to school. He’s had some talks with coaches, but still doesn’t know which of his two sports he wants to pursue, leaving him undecided.
If there’s one thing the transfer situation taught him, though, it’s about being mentally tough no matter what’s going on in your life.
“Mentally, you have to be prepared and keep yourself in the game no matter what,” Henderson said. “Going through that definitely is humbling. Knowing now not to take anything for granted, it’s a blessing to be able to come back from that.”