Thrown for a loop

An injury forced Trey Henderson off the football field and into the hammer circle

Had things gone differently, Nolan (Trey) Henderson might be playing in the NFL right now.

Instead, he's in Kamloops, and he's not at all upset about it.

"I love throwing," says Henderson, a hammer thrower at the National Throws Centre. "You never know what would have happened with football, but I always felt like I belonged more in track."

Henderson, 23, has been in Kamloops since October. He came from his hometown, Richmond, where he spent the summer after graduating from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

And while he enjoyed a stellar university track and field career - he was a two-time All-American and conference champion - Henderson actually went south to play football with the Trojans, one of the NCAA's top programs.

In fact, Henderson had such an impressive high-school career with the Vancouver College Fighting Irish that then-Trojans head coach Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, made a phone call to the Henderson residence.

"Their defensive co-ordinator (Nick Holt) did an in-home visit, and they had me on the phone with Pete Carroll," says Henderson, who was a defensive lineman. "That was when they were as good as they (ever) were . . . and Pete Carroll wants to talk to me. It was pretty crazy."

At the time - he started at USC in 2007 - it was reported that Henderson was the first Canadian to ever sign with the Trojans, whom ESPN named the team of the decade between 1996 and 2006.

But his football career was over almost before it started. In his second practice with USC, Henderson tore the meniscus in his right knee, prompting surgery. The following season, he injured the knee again, and his football days were over.

"I had to get a second surgery, and they told me that I shouldn't do football anymore," says Henderson, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 265 pounds. "I couldn't really do much running, so I went full-time with track."

Although the knee problems are indeed unfortunate, Henderson is lucky that they likely won't hinder his throwing career.

"I've never had any problems throwing," he says. "Just fluid gets built up sometimes - when that happens, I can't throw. But if I'm smart and not running around or jumping, it's usually good."

Henderson - whose full name is Nolan Henderson III; he's been Trey since even before he was born - dedicated his time to work on the USC track and field team, and earned a full scholarship.

He has lived in a focused atmosphere before, with the USC track team training and studying together, but it has been taken to another level in Kamloops.

"We have a group here . . . they are pros, this is what they do," Henderson says. "In college, you go to school, you go out, and you do track.

"There, you've got some people there just because they want to be on the team, and for me, a big part of coming here was the difference in that training environment."

During his time at USC, Henderson had the seventh-longest throw in the school's history (67.63 metres), but that's still about 13 metres shy of where the world's best can throw.

His goal for 2013 is to hit 76m, which is the B standard for worlds in Moscow in August. He would have to hit it twice to qualify.

"There are some smaller meets where the standards are a little lower," says Henderson, whose personal best is 69.45m, set in 2011. "I know the World University Games (in Kazan, Russia, in July), I'm still eligible, the last standard was 68.50m.

"That one's more attainable. I would love to throw the world B standard, because that's my goal, but I won't be devastated because I'm in a new program and I'm still young."

And with everything being different here in Kamloops, Henderson is all but living at the Tournament Capital Centre. He throws in the indoor area twice a day, and also lifts weights throughout.

On top of that, he picked up some work at the TCC's wellness centre.

"I work Friday evenings and Sunday mornings," he says. "After my Friday afternoon practice, I work until 11 and go home. I spend a lot of time here."

Work is nothing new to Henderson.

After finishing second at the Canadian championships in Calgary in June, he spent the summer working at Viking Chain, a Delta-based chain company. It was something of a change from what he learned while earning a social sciences degree, which had an emphasis on psychology focusing on criminal behaviour and forensic psychology.

"I got to my sophomore year and I had to pick a major," he says. "I thought, 'What am I interested in?' I like watching Dexter and criminal shows, so I decided to go with it. It was fun."

But Henderson will always remember his football days, and the friends he made there. Among his former teammates are Green Bays Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez; in fact, the NFL is packed with USC alumni.

Just a few weeks back, Henderson and his father were in Oakland for the Raiders' 26-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. Henderson went to visit a former roommate - Oakland scout team wide receiver Brandon Carswell - but also noticed another former USC teammate, receiver David Ausberry, on the Raiders' sideline.

It's just the way life goes, with people heading off in different directions.

"I ended up being a two-time All-American and two-time conference champion in track," Henderson says. "I felt like I accomplished a lot. The football guys I came in with, we all accomplished something.

"It would be nice to go to the Olympics and say I was an Olympian, in comparison to guys who are in the NFL, but I'm just happy that my friends got the opportunities they have."

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