Hendrick ties career interceptions record

Categories:  News    Sports
Thursday, November 1st, 2018 at 9:16 AM
Hendrick ties career interceptions record by Chris Rosato Jr.
Photo: Kelly Staschak

Sprinting down the sideline on a deep, fourth-down Clarion pass in the second quarter of Saturday’s game, Zuril Hendrick was unable to make the catch.

The ball slipped through his hands and down to the turf. He stared at the traitors and slammed them together in disgust.

Except Hendrick wasn’t the intended receiver. In fact, he was playing for the other team. You see, Hendrick plays defense for Edinboro’s football team, and he’s one of the best defensive backs in Division II football at catching passes not meant for him.

The ball that slipped through his hands would have been his 21st career interception.

With a pick just 90 seconds into Saturday’s game at Clarion University, Hendrick tied Chris Avery for Edinboro’s career interceptions record at 20. 

“It feels great to get it. But I don’t want to tie it, I want to break it,” Hendrick said after the game. “I’m actually mad I dropped the second one in the second quarter, but it feels great to finally get it.”

On Clarion’s first play from the line of scrimmage, Hendrick plucked the football from the sky for the 20th time of his career, returning it 6 yards to Clarion’s 16-yard line.

In 2005, Avery reached the record on the last game of his senior season. He picked off a pass early in the second quarter and nearly scored, returning it to the 3-yard line. His offense punched it in on the ensuing drive. 

“At the time, I think I initially thought I was the man,” Avery said of the record. “I thought it was pretty cool for sure.”

Hendrick has two games remaining to surpass Avery after a run-focused game Saturday.

Avery said he still remembers the 2005 season finale against Lock Haven. The Fighting Scots got out to an early lead over the Bald Eagles, and the former Fighting Scot said his coaches were considering pulling him out of the game in favor of younger players; Edinboro had a 4-1 PSAC record and was already 7-2 overall.

“They were going to take me out because I was a senior, but I was like, ‘No, I need this pick!’ And I ended up getting it, so it’s kinda cool,” Avery said.

Edinboro continued to roll in that game, finishing with a run of 27 points in the second half to earn a 41-3 win. The Fighting Scots split the division title with California University, but were excluded from the NCAA Northeast Region tournament after being just above the cutline the week prior.

“I was really shocked,” then-Head Coach Lou Tepper said following the announcement. “I thought if we had a decisive win over Lock Haven, it was a done deal.”

The 2018 Fighting Scots will also be excluded from postseason activity, but with far less excitement. They began PSAC West play by losing three of their first four games before winning the last two. Meanwhile, Slippery Rock sits atop the division at 6-0 with one week of divisional play left.

Hendrick burned ambitious quarterbacks a year ago with nine interceptions, making him the top thief in the nation and tying Raji El-Amin — another teammate of Avery’s in 2003 — for the single-season school record. He needs three more this year to match that season total.

He has been biding his time ever since Edinboro’s homecoming on Sept. 29, when he earned his 19th career takeaway with an 18-yard return halfway through the first quarter of an exciting game that ended with a last-minute Edinboro comeback. Among the alumni in attendance: Chris Avery.

“I had no idea [that was Hendrick’s 19th interception] and I didn’t look it up. He can play. He can play some ball,” Avery said. “I was watching him and I got that rush again, you know. It’s kind of cool. But I’m super stoked that he’s that close to breaking the record and doing his thing. I think that’s great.”

Hendrick smiled with half of his mouth when he heard about Avery’s praise.

“It feels great to have Chris behind me wanting me to break the record,” Hendrick said. “Except we’ve got two games left. I’m just trying to focus on winning those. If number 21 comes in one of those, I’ll be blessed for it.”

Avery is more than just behind Hendrick. He wants to see the senior continue his playing career beyond the college level. And Avery isn’t exactly a stranger to professional football players.

While at Edinboro, he faced off against the likes of John Kuhn, Brent Grimes and Nate Washington, all NFL players. Kuhn and Washington, who played for Shippensburg and Tiffin, respectively, have won two Super Bowls each, and Grimes, also from Shippensburg, played in the Pro Bowl four times.

“I want to make sure that he stays healthy so that he can make an impact in the NFL for sure,” Avery said of Hendrick’s future. “[Division II football] is right on the cusp. If you’re making noise you can make it to the league. So keep going, beat me by 10.”

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: news, sports, football

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