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ASU Football: Henderson showing “a lot of progress” post-surgery, uncertain for last games and NFL Draft

Lot up in the air for the draft prospect

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

TEMPE - There was really no reason for Arizona State captain and left guard LaDarius Henderson to be at the podium taking questions and cracking jokes on Wednesday.

But of course, he was.

Henderson, arguably the program’s top 2023 NFL Draft prospect, spoke to the media for the first time since sustaining a finger injury in the 45-38 win over Washington in early October (he has not played since). Typically, injured players or those whose statuses are in question are withheld from the podium.

“This is a new, strange feeling for me,” Henderson said. “I don’t like it at all. This is my first injury that has really taken me out of anything since I started playing football, ever. It’s kind of a new feeling watching (and) not being a part of it, especially as a captain. You’re like, ‘Dang.’ You’re just not really as involved as you can be. So it sucks, I’m not going to lie.”

In what he describes as a “freak accident,” Henderson does not recall the specific movement or action that caused the injury, other than it happened in the Washington game. Given his draft status and the fragility of the injured tendons in his finger, the training staff and doctors exercised extreme caution, and Henderson opted for surgery. Playing with a club was considered, but long-term health quickly became the priority.

“You got to get it fixed or it’s stuck for life,” he said. “You talk about those things over with our coaches, they don’t want to put me at risk ever. It’s one of those types of deals, it’s what’s best for the long run.

The 20-year-old senior has an extra year of eligibility, but he has also accepted an invite to the annual invitational East-West Shrine Bowl in February. As of now, he says his NFL Draft status is uncertain.

“It’s just a lot to think about right now,” he said. “I’ve been praying about it a lot. Me and my family we’ve been talking and praying about it together, and it’s just something that I am going to decide (on) here in a little bit.”

Prior to his injury, Henderson started 18 straight games at left guard for the Sun Devils dating back to the 2021 season-opener. Henderson also started nine games left tackle as a 17-year-old freshman, earning his first FBS playing-time in a road-upset over ranked Michigan State. He was elected captain in 2022, and also represented the ASU program at Pac-12 Media Days in Los Angeles preseason along with fellow captain Kyle Soelle.

Henderson would be a substantial building block for the 2023 team should he return for another college season. With the coaching staff and roster in question following this season, consistency in the trenches would be an enormous gift to whoever steps into the full-time head coaching role. At the same time, Henderson’s stock may never be higher than it is right now, and an injury certainly throws a wrench in whatever plans (or lack thereof) that Henderson had in mind.

“I never really feel like I’ve done enough,” he said. “I never really feel like I’ve arrived, but it’s really hard to know. I didn’t know until I got to this point that it would really hard to know when it would be time to go, because if you look at it, after this year, if I think about it, coming back for another year of college, could I be better at something? Yeah. And after that year if I had another year, if I came back, could I be better at something? Yeah. And every year until you stop peaking in life, you could. And it’s just a point of you have to know when it’s your time to do that.”

It’s also worth noting that Henderson confirmed Wednesday that other programs were interested in him as a transfer last offseason. He said that the remaining ASU players who did not transfer made a pact to remain in Tempe, one that he honored in 2022.