Category Archives: College Football

Indy grad Henderson to focus on football at Liberty

By Maurice Patton

As he plans to build on the momentum from his redshirt freshman season under his first-year coach, Troy Henderson will return to a tense situation at Liberty University.

The former Independence football standout has seen two of his teammates announce this week that they have placed their names in the NCAA transfer portal in reaction to their concerns regarding the racial and cultural aspects of school leadership.

Sophomore defensive backs Tayvion Land and Kei’Trel Clark, in separate Twitter messages, confirmed their decisions Monday to leave the Liberty program. The university stated that inappropriate comments by a school professor – who has since been dismissed — contributed to their decisions.

“I don’t think it’s my place to speak on it right now,” Henderson said. “It just recently happened. It’s a sensitive topic.”

Recently, more than 30 Liberty alumni expressed public displeasure over a tweet in May by president Jerry Falwell Jr. In the tweet, Falwell stated his opposition to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “until I decided to design my own”. With the tweet, he posted a picture of a person in a blackface and a second of a person in a Ku Klux Klan robe. The picture, which originally appeared in Northam’s medical yearbook, nearly forced the governor from office when it became public last year.

Falwell apologized for the tweet earlier this month, saying “I actually refreshed the trauma that image had caused and offended some by using the image to make a political point.”

Along with Land and Clark, Asia Todd recently left the Liberty women’s basketball program, citing the campus climate in her decision.

“As far as me making any moves, I don’t think that’s going to be anything I’m thinking about right now, until something else happens,” Henderson said.

From a football perspective, Henderson is encouraged – but not satisfied — by the campaign he had under new coach Hugh Freeze and co-offensive coordinator Kent Austin, a former high school standout at Brentwood Academy.

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As a redshirt freshman at Liberty University last fall, former Independence standout Troy Henderson accounted for 181 total yards and three touchdowns on 16 touches. (Liberty University athletics)

“I’m unsatisfied. I’m always going to be unsatisfied, always going to feel like I want to do more,” said Henderson, who played in eight games last fall. In those eight contests, he rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, caught three passes for 33 yards and a pair of scores and had 61 yards on three kickoff returns.

“I’m eager to see what the future holds,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons, a lot of potential on the team. I’m going to get in where I fit in.”

In two seasons at Independence, Henderson rushed for 2,355 yards and 40 touchdowns, helping the Eagles to the Class 5A state finals his junior season and to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs as a senior. He signed with Liberty and then-coach Turner Gill over offers from Elon and Tennessee-Martin.

Gill departed following Henderson’s redshirt year in 2018 and Freeze was brought on board, with the Flames putting together an 8-5 season last fall. The campaign culminated in a Cure Bowl victory over Georgia Southern in the program’s second season of FBS bowl eligibility.

“It was an upgrade for me,” Henderson said of the coaching change. “I feel like I’ve got a coaching staff that truly understands the game of football, that was 100 percent locked in to what we needed as a team, not just individually. I also feel like they changed the culture a little and made it a lot more ‘homey’, a lot more family oriented.

“You can tell the team is all working (toward) one goal. Everybody’s out there with passion, wanting to work hard, people that wanted to stay over later in practice and do extra work. It’s not a place you don’t want to be.”

With spring practice cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, Henderson’s just ready to return to the Lynchburg, Va., campus and get back to work – while putting non-football issues to the side.

“I can’t say I’m concerned,” he said of the campus climate. “Regardless of where I go, I’m going to experience something like that. It doesn’t matter what school I would have gone to, there’s always something like that to happen. It’s not new. People think it’s new. It’s a lot more vocalized – it’s video, it’s cameras.

“The majority of my life, I’ve been the only black kid in my class in a predominantly white school. Coming to Liberty, I’m not expecting to see any different, I’m not expecting to be treated any different. I am what I am, at the end of the day. I’m a Black football player. That comes with a stereotype along with whatever. Stuff happens.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Indy alumnus Guidry anxious for return to Miss. State

Landon Guidry, a defensive catalyst on Independence’s 2015 state title team as a junior, is working to earn playing time at Mississippi State. (Photo courtesy Mississippi State athletics)

By Maurice Patton

Landon Guidry was poised to participate in a potentially career-turning spring practice before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, limiting him to Zoom meetings and solo workouts from a distance.

Instead, the former Independence standout will look to make an impression on the new coaching staff at Mississippi State as the Bulldogs, along with the rest of the Southeastern Conference, return to their respective campuses June 8 for summer workouts.

“Definitely, not having spring ball hurt me,” said Guidry, who in two seasons has accounted for six total tackles – all during his redshirt sophomore campaign. “In winter workouts, I did a lot, showed them what I was capable of doing, put a good taste in my mouth. I felt like I was really showing them what I could do.”

The fallout from the pandemic is just another twist to what has been a somewhat tumultuous collegiate experience for Guidry. A two-way star at the high school level with 98 total tackles, four interceptions, 10 tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries over his junior and senior seasons, he’s been through two coaching changes and a knee injury since arriving in Starkville.

“I redshirted under (current Florida coach Dan) Mullen and played two years under (Joe Moorhead, dismissed following the 2019 season),” the 6-1, 200-pounder said. “(But) I know what I’m capable of doing. Even on Moorhead’s staff, I was competing with guys, with one guy in front of me that I thought I was better than, physically, mentally, I just never got the shot.

“This new staff likes me a lot. They’re telling me I’m going to get a lot of good reps this year, just based on what they’ve seen in winter workouts from me.”

Former Texas Tech and Washington State coach Mike Leach succeeded Moorhead, and Guidry likes what he’s seen from the offensive-minded veteran and the assistants he has brought to town – including safeties coach Jason Washington.

“Honestly, I get a Mullen feeling from him. He reminds me of Coach Mullen,” said Guidry, who expects to work at both free safety and nickel for the ‘Dogs. “He doesn’t talk a lot; he’s down to business. He won’t sugarcoat anything; he’ll tell you straight-up. I really love this staff.

“Coach Washington has been very helpful to me. He’s really taught me more about the techniques of the position. (Former safeties coach Bob) Shoop was more fundamental and scheme, which is great, but as a safety, I feel like fundamentals and technique are way more important, and that’s what Coach Washington has been teaching me.”

Between the lack of on-campus growth and the lack of stability, Guidry’s been somewhat frustrated but remains optimistic.

“There’s been some adjusting, some getting used to,” he said. “The meetings on Zoom, I’m starting to adapt more to that style of teaching. The most difficult part for me is strength and conditioning. I’ve been doing the best I can when it comes to doing things on my own, but it’s not the same without that college weight room. Definitely when we get back, we’re going to hit it hard.

“The biggest thing I take from all this is patience – waiting my turn. As much as it (frustrates), I just know that God’s got me. Whatever comes, I know it’s in His plan. I know that I’ve got to perform to the best of my abilities and everything should work out in my favor.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.