Jerome Henderson spent the 1991 season with wide eyes, unanswered questions, and a ton of avoidable mistakes. As a rookie cornerback fresh out of the second round he went to the New England Patriots and learned the systems - both defensively and socially - entirely on his own, which cost him immensely.
Through Coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum's vision of a revamped Jets franchise, Henderson, 36, was lured back into the NFL after an impressive stretch of mortgage banking in North Carolina. As a cornerback in the league – as well as with the Jets just seven seasons ago - Henderson brings youth, excitement and most importantly, direct experience to the front office as Director of Player Development.
"I didn't really miss it (being in the NFL) until I actually got back," admitted Henderson. "The first day of rookie camp though, I got chills - I was excited. When the players went through the bags I got that adrenaline rush and actually jumped in on the bag drills with them."
After being offered various jobs to return to the league as an administrator over the recent years, Henderson cordially declined, and in doing so, he worked his way up the ranks to Vice President of HomeBanc Mortgage Corp in Raleigh, NC. Although it may not seem comparable, his current position had a lot in common with his previous, making the transition ever so smooth.
"As a branch manager I was coaching and mentoring young people, so the job descriptions are very similar," recalls Henderson. "I was bringing in people and guiding them in the right path so they could create their own great careers for themselves."
He sees himself in a lot of the players, which is one of the many reasons why he loves his new job. Through the lives of these young men, he's going back into his own personal accounts of struggling through the pressures of being a first year player. Although these times were tough for him, he gets much gratification for helping them out in the same situations in which he was unable to get the important counseling help.
"Both they and I were all wide-eyed and had a thousand questions," Henderson jokes of his comparison with the rookies. "One thing I stress to them is the importance of asking me those questions that they might think are dumb. When in truth, there are no dumb questions at this point. I took things like that for granted when I was their age and that's where I messed up. I was afraid to ask questions which led to not knowing what the coaches wanted of me; I want to make sure I don't let them make that same mistake."
A typical day as Director of Player Development is only typical in the sense that none are ever the same. The one thing that remains constant are his daily training sessions with the new players in regards to nearly everything off - and some on - the football field. Whether it's assisting them with their bank accounts, money management, note taking, or even strength and conditioning, Jerome's knows best.
"First and foremost, always enjoy being a professional because it doesn't last for long," Henderson explains his apprentices. "Secondly, really take advantage of the opportunity you have in front of you. Really commit yourself on and off the field while you're here. You're only going to get this window of opportunity once and unfortunately, it's a small window."
His personal accounts not only offer the best form of education, but the fact that he knows exactly what Coach Mangini is looking for and expecting, goes unrivaled. By forming them into successful professionals as well as Jets, he proves to be an irreplaceable commodity.
"This is a very dialed in group," said Henderson. "They are into learning and are hungry for knowledge both on and off the field. They make my job easier and gratifying by being so attentive – they're a good group and should be very successful."