Billy Henderson honored by Clarke Central lettermen

In typical Billy Henderson style, the legendary Clarke Central coach deflected credit for helping close to 200 players go to colleges on football scholarships while coaching the Gladiators from 1973 to 1998. He said something about it being “a team effort.”

Charles Bellflower, one of my first students, deserves a lot of credit for that,” said Henderson, now 81 and long since retired. “Every year he would put a brochure together with all our players’ names, height, weight, bench press and 40 time. He mailed it to every college and we’d tell them what we thought when they called us about somebody. . . . We were blessed with a lot of great talent and I had a lot of great young coaches working with me. We were just blessed; that’s all there is to it.”

Well, those players were also blessed to have been coached by Henderson, a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame who coached the Gladiators to three state titles. And Friday night, they’re going to do their best show Coach Henderson their appreciation.

More than 200 of Henderson’s former lettermen are expected in Athens tonight to honor Henderson before the Habersham Central game. The plan is for them all to join Henderson on the field for a brief ceremony.

“Basically it started with a group of former players still in town that have former a sort of alumni group called ‘The Gladiator Foundation,’” said Jon Ward, Clarke Central’s athletics director. “Basically they came to the conclusion about a year ago that something great for Coach Henderson would be to get him back on the field one more time with as many of his former players as possible.”

Ward said he received more than 200 RSVP’s from former players but that twice that could end up showing up. Former NFL player and Ole Miss star Willie Green will be among them and Ward was hopeful former Tennessee and Atlanta Falcons star was going to be able to make it. John Kasay, who is still kicking for the Carolina Panthers, and Frank Bush, defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, sent written regards.

Nobody is exactly sure how many of Henderson’s former players went on to enjoy college careers. There are 172 listed in the Clarke Central game program, no doubt meticulously tracked by Bellflower.

Like anybody his age, Henderson has had to overcome some health issues in recent years. He recovered from a stroke six years ago and was temporarily in a wheelchair after a fall going to the mailbox two years ago. But he still works out at the Athens YMCA every morning and said he has been walking without his walker for the last week.

Meanwhile, Henderson’s well-known quick wit remains perfectly intact. Asked how it felt to be honored in such a way, he laughed: “It’s kind of like going to my funeral, only I’m still alive.”

Friday night his hope was to walk to the middle of the field at what is now known as Billy Henderson Stadium.

“My goal is to walk out there on that field between two of my players,” Henderson said.

No doubt he will.

10 comments Add your comment

Henderson Fan

September 11th, 2009
8:04 pm

They don’t come any better than Coach Henderson.

Proud Clarke Central alum '95

September 11th, 2009
8:38 pm

Although, I never had the honor of playing my senior year for Coach Henderson, I still have good memories of him walking around Clarke Central in his usual red and gold garb. It was always a trip to see how in shape this guy was. Coach Henderson coached his players up as opposed to simply coaching. He made us all better, not just as players but as men as well. The loss to Valdosta in ‘91 still hurts though! LOL! Should’ve been championship #4, but it’s ok.

GladAlumni

September 11th, 2009
9:34 pm

It was a great night at Billy Henderson Stadium. More than 300 former players and their families made it out to honor Coach Henderson. A great night for a great man. Here’s a great video on Coach Henderson and his impact on the community – http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/sports/High5_Sports_Coach_Billy_Henderson_090709

Tony Perkins---Class of '79

September 11th, 2009
9:37 pm

I never played football at CCHS, but I did play basketball 4 years. Billy Henderson is truly one of the
greatest humans I’ve ever been around. Billy seen no color, he truly cared about people. I remember
him helping me and my teammates purchase leather basketball sneakers because we couldn’t afford
them. Billy Henderson biggest strength in coaching was fundamentals and how he motivated his
players.

John A

September 11th, 2009
10:08 pm

I played on his last team in 95 and had the honor of introducing him tonight. He is one of the best of all time. 285 wins,12 region titles, 3 state and 1 national title. He taught his players about life, not just football. It CAN be done!

Gladiator

September 12th, 2009
12:19 am

Thank you Coach

Bulldog34

September 13th, 2009
11:44 am

My family knew Coach Henderson here in Macon when he coached Willingham HS. He lost a son, Brad, in a car accident and Brad Henderson Stadium still hosts high school games. He’s a fine man, a true gentleman and a danged fine football coach.

What a great tribute!

shankit

September 14th, 2009
9:13 am

From an ol’ Valdosta Wildcat fan.
Congratulations to Coach Henderson.
He was a thorn in our side at Willingham and
at Clark Central.
His teams played tough.
Bazemore would be proud of you.

coachx

September 14th, 2009
9:15 am

97 Clarke Central Alum wishes Coach Henderson the best. A true class act !

Shoyn Jones #24 CCHS Football C/O 91

October 2nd, 2009
11:25 pm

I ‘ve had the pleasure to play for the legandary coach Billy Henderson and I loved every minute of it. From (77-90) Clarke Central Football was very dominate in those years I would called the Golden age of Gladiator Football and I was glad to be a part of it. Coach thankyou for everything you have done with the Gladiator football and I was glad to be a part of it.