Ashton Henderson represented Michigan State with pride every time he stepped on the field. Henderson wore his heart on his sleeve, and what you saw was what you got.
During Christmas of last year, Henderson paired with teammate Ross Weaver to give back to the community that they respected.
Two college students, with not much to spare; pulled their funds together to brighten the holiday season for underprivileged children in the Lansing area.
Henderson and Weaver came up with $600, purchased gifts and wrapped them in a selfless act of giving.
Because of Hendersonâ€™s generosity, he was lovingly referred to as â€œChocolate Santaâ€ by a local Michigan State media member.
Henderson, a 2005 Wendyâ€™s High School Heisman nominee, recently recalled last Christmas as a guest on Spartan Nation Radio.
Light-hearted as usual, the shining example of what a â€œgood guyâ€ should be, laughed when asked about Weaverâ€™s gift-wrapping involvement.
â€œRoss talked and talked and talked,â€ Henderson laughed. â€œI was right there wrapping all his gifts.â€
Faith plays a dynamic role in the way Henderson lives his life.
And heâ€™s never been one to hide his Christian ways.
Spartan coach, Mark Dantonio, is too, a man of faith. And a phrase that Dantonio often used resonated with Henderson.
The words will continue to ring true with any player who approaches life the way Henderson does.
â€œMy faith is everything,â€ Henderson said. â€œItâ€™s the reason why who I am. Itâ€™s the reason why Iâ€™m the person that I am. Nothing Iâ€™ve done is because of me. Nothing Iâ€™m doing is because of me.
â€œIâ€™m a God-fearing man, and He lives in me. Iâ€™m just a person â€” like coach Dantonio always says â€” â€˜Youâ€™re just a speck of dust trying to make a mark on the world.â€™ Â I took that quote he says, and I really took it to heart. Thatâ€™s how I view my faith. Iâ€™m just someone out of millions trying to do what God wants me to do.â€
Henderson couldnâ€™t contain his laughter during his on-air interview, and the self-proclaimed top five Spartan mamaâ€™s boys of all-time took the time to recognize those who molded him into the upstanding young man he is today â€” his parents.
â€œSince Day 1, my parents have been very influential figures in my life,â€ the 5-foot-11, 189-pound former cornerback said. â€œOne thing I tried to do; was to honor them, and make sure any decision I made â€“ I kept them in mind, and of course my faith was always in my mind as well. â€¦I was blessed to be fortunate to come here to Michigan State on scholarship, and I have two of the most parents in the world. Iâ€™m thankful for them.â€
Henderson played in 49 games during his athletic career at Michigan State. He was the 57th-ranked corner in the country when recruited, and finished his tenure with 37 solo tackles, 12 of which came his senior year.
The Tallahassee native earned his BA in advertising last spring, and continues to pursue higher academic standards. Henderson will graduate this fall with a degree in public relations.
Hendersonâ€™s ultimate goal is to work in the realm of professional athletics. Heâ€™s adapted to the cold Michigan winters, and said getting his foot in the door with a pro team will be worth the sacrifice of enduring another chilly season in the Great Lakes State.
â€œIdeally, Iâ€™m trying to transition myself to work in professional sports,â€ Henderson said. Â â€œIâ€™d probably like to start here with the (Detroit) Lions, and work my way down south one day.â€
Good thing Henderson is patient, because a job with the Lions could end up being a daunting task; given the organizationâ€™s recent history.
Henderson spends time at the Clara Bell Smith Center, where he works, but still finds time to lend advice and support to his college team.
Although heâ€™s joined the ranks of Spartan â€œold guys,â€ Henderson said his passion for the game still runs deep. Itâ€™s hard for him to just watch practices and scrimmages as a bystander. He still wants a piece of the action.
â€œOh man, it really hurts,â€ Henderson said. â€œI miss it a lot. Iâ€™m still connected with them. â€¦They know they have 110-percent support from me. â€¦Iâ€™m an old guy with a lot of wisdom thatâ€™s willing to share it with the new guys. Hopefully they listen.â€
Last year, because Michigan Stateâ€™s front-four couldnâ€™t apply necessary pressure, defensive backs often found themselves on â€œislands,â€ or left to fend for themselves. Â In order to avoid a repeat of 2009, Henderson said the defensive line and secondary must work together as one this fall.
â€œEverything works as a whole,â€ said Henderson. â€œAs you know, itâ€™s a joint effort. We all have each otherâ€™s back. â€¦We work together. Last year, thatâ€™s behind us. We canâ€™t control anything from last year. All we can do is move forward. These guys are looking great. â€¦Guys are ready to play, that I can see.â€
For Henderson, being a Spartan radiates a sense of pride â€” a sense of belonging.
There are Spartans in every corner of the nation, and Henderson said he canâ€™t get through an air terminal without hearing â€˜Go green, go white,â€™ when he displays his schoolâ€™s colors.
â€œIâ€™ll tell you this what great pride now,â€ he said. â€œI go home and wear green; and I wear it with pride. It truly, and simply, is nothing but the truth.â€