Oct. 21, 2013
By Matt Bontorin, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Senior midfielder Cody Henderson may not be the loudest or the flashiest player on the Michigan State men's soccer team but this, "unsung hero" has quietly contributed to a resurgence of the program that has elevated them to not just a regional powerhouse, but a national contender.
Coming out of Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills, Henderson was placed on ESPN's `Players to Watch' list for the state of Michigan. This type of attention led to him being heavily recruited by not only local schools, but schools around the nation. The battle for Henderson's services came down to two schools; arch-rivals Michigan and Michigan State.
"Growing up my dad was a Michigan fan so it was tough knowing that's where he wanted me to go," Henderson said.
Henderson however went with his gut and chose to commit to the Spartans during his senior year of high school.
"What ultimately separated Michigan State from the other schools was (head coach) Damon's (Rensing) attitude towards his players and towards the game," Henderson said. "He's a family-oriented person and that's what I want to be. He's passionate about soccer, but understands the importance of family and school as well. On top of that, I really liked all the players. I felt more comfortable with this team than any other team that recruited me."
Despite his high school success, Henderson was redshirted in 2010. He displayed selflessness and the ability to put his team before himself and used the year to not only make himself better, but to push his teammates.
"It was obviously tough not playing your first year," said Henderson. "I stuck with it though and worked hard during practice and made sure I was ready for next year when my time came."
Henderson was certainly ready to play in 2011. He appeared in 19 games, starting 14 of them, and helped his team to a winning record of 11-8-2. Henderson was even ranked as one of the top-100 freshmen by TopDrawerSoccer.com
In 2012, Henderson emerged as a two-way offensive and defensive contributor. He scored his first goal in heroic fashion on Sept. 9, in a tightly contested game against Providence in Rhode Island. Both he and Rensing agree that it was Henderson's biggest moment wearing the green and white.
"I was so pumped," Henderson said. "It was my favorite moment during my career here at MSU. We were going through some tough times and were facing a lot of adversity because of our 1-3-1 record. I remember we had a team talk after a tough loss the night before. We really needed to somehow get back on track. Being able to get the winning goal the next day meant a lot to me. It was an awesome moment."
Rensing agreed that Henderson's goal against Providence was a pivotal moment for the Spartans.
"We were struggling and we really needed a win at Providence," Rensing said. "It was a game in which we took the lead twice and Providence answered twice and with about five minutes left Cody hit an unbelievable shot that gave us the 3-2 win. That win propelled us out of a rough stretch and in a way was able to turn our season around."
The Spartans finished with another winning record that season at 12-10-1.
As impressive as Henderson has been on the field, he has been equally inspiring in the classroom. Originally a business major, Henderson switched to a pre-med degree in interdisciplinary studies as a sophomore and hasn't looked back.
"After my freshman year, I came to the realization that I wasn't challenging myself as much as I could have been," said Henderson. "I decided to switch to a pre-med degree in interdisciplinary studies and ever since then I've been keeping my GPA up and doing really well."
Currently, Henderson is in the process of preparing for his MCATS and plans on applying to medical school next fall.
After his playing career concludes at MSU, Henderson has made it clear he wants to remain around the game of soccer and hopes to become a coach at the high school level.
"I really want to be involved in high school soccer as a coach, that way I can stay close to the game," Henderson said. "I also plan on playing in men's league games to stay in shape and have fun."
With his time as a Spartan winding down, Henderson hopes he has left a mark on the program.
"I want to be remembered as a good teammate and a hard-worker," said Henderson. "I want to be able to remain close with my teammates and with the coaches and really the program as a whole. The relationships that I've made at Michigan State are hopefully ones that last a lifetime."
Henderson has embodied the Spartan spirit in many ways and has taken on the role of being a cognitive leader on and off the field at MSU. His coach agrees that he has been essential to the team's success during his tenure.
"Cody's been great," said Rensing. "He's had some really successful years here. Not a guy that gets his name out there a lot, but probably one of the most unsung heroes. He's played a lot of minutes and has been important both offensively and defensively. He shows up every day, works hard and has a great attitude and to top it off he's a good student. Obviously he's very well liked with this group of guys. He's been vital to our program."