It’s a family affair

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It’s a family affair

Garrick Hodge assistant sports editor

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When the Leathernecks strap on their pads and put on their helmets on Saturday for the final time this season, emotions will be running high, especially for the Hendrickson family.

Not only will it be the last opportunity Western Illinois head football coach Mark Hendrickson will have to watch his son Myers play football, it will also be the last time Myers Hendrickson will be able to call Mark Hendrickson both “Dad” and “Coach.”

“It’s been a fun experience,” said senior wide receiver and punt returner Myers Hendrickson, when asked what it was like playing for his father. “Although this year sometimes it’s been tough, but we have to control what we can control. We can’t control injuries or the way the ball bounces. It seems like last year we got all those breaks, and this year we’re not.”

After beginning the season ranked 24th in the nation in the FCS Now poll, and starting out a respectable 2-3, losing only to Sam Houston State (currently 10-0), Division I power Missouri and Northern Iowa (now 8-2), the Leathernecks have dropped their last five games.

Last fall, led by quarterback Matt Barr (runner-up for the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS) and linebacker Kyle Glazier (runner-up for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS), Western finished 8-5 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Coach Hendrickson is also glad that both he and his son have been able to share the experience of being part of Leatherneck football.

“For me, it’s been a lot of fun,” Coach Hendrickson said. “I’ve enjoyed literally every minute of it. I definitely believe that life is made up of experiences, and to spend four years as a college football coach and to have Myers on the team with me has been a very positive experience.

“I’m sure glad it worked out, and that he wanted to be here. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget in my lifetime.”

Myers is one of three Leatherneck athletes to be coached by his father. The other two are men’s basketball player Billy Molinari, who plays for head coach Jim Molinari, and men’s soccer player Kooten Johnson, whose father is men’s soccer head coach Eric Johnson.

Despite being coached by his dad, Myers said that he is not treated any differently than anyone else on the team. “Everybody is a family,” Myers said. “We’re all in this together. Everybody is the same.”

Coach Hendrickson said he agrees with his son, adding that everyone on the team has his own role. The Leathernecks coach also said that he does not need to be harder on Myers to appease other players.

“I’ve certainly heard that theory a lot, but I don’t really believe I’ve done that,” said Coach Hendrickson.

“Myers, like a lot of our players, has been a very good role model for his teammates, because he’s a good practice player. He practices full speed all the time, and yet he doesn’t get on the field a lot.”

The Western coach added, “(Myers has) been a good role model for others to see that you’re expected to work as hard as you can every day in practice. But everybody has a role on the team, and his role is being more involved with special teams. It has not been to play a lot of snaps at wide receiver for us.

“He understands his role, which is to be a backup receiver, and handling punt returns.”

Myers, who was named to the 2011 CFPA Preseason Watch List for punt returners, said he takes his role as a punt returner very seriously. “Every practice I catch punts, well before practice even starts, we call it pre-practice,” Myers said. “I try to catch as many then as I can, and I’ll take live punts during punt team drills. Just seeing the ball in the air, you have to see the ball all the way in and focus.”

Myers works with redshirt freshman kick returner Larry Patterson to help improve his return game. “We work together, on kickoff and punt returns, I don’t do as much on the kick returns, but we talk about hitting the crease and looking for running lanes.”

Myers has been very impressed with Western’s special teams as a whole. “I think our special teams have been great this year,” Myers said. “It hasn’t shown as much with our record, but (placekicker) Pat (Smith) has done great, (punter) Mike Shroble has also done great, and with kick returns, Larry Patterson has been fantastic, he’s a great returner. So I think overall, special teams has played pretty well this year.”

His punt return days will soon end, as will his time as a Western Illinois University student.

Upon graduation, Myers plans on taking a job at Archer Daniels Midland Company in Decatur Ill.

And when that day comes, for the first time, a new Hendrickson will be calling the plays.



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