Hard hits can happen on any play in college football. Henderson’s life-changing blow came in the first quarter of the 2015 season opener.
"The running back came in and we actually butted helmets rather than me switching to one side," said Henderson. "We both fell over and he got up faster than I did and I was like, ‘wow, that kind of rung my bell.’"
Henderson admits he doesn’t remember much after impact.
"Just a ringing and then got up and I didn't hear what play was called next," he said.
Henderson left the game to be checked out.
"The helmet sensors pointed to that I had a concussion," he said.
Helmet sensors Henderson had on because he signed up for a national concussion study through Concordia University.
"Alek was originally not interested in enrolling in the study, so through further conversation with me and just kind of dispelling some of his concerns or apprehensions, I convinced him that it would be a positive thing to enroll," said Concordia Director of Sports Medicine Angi Steffen.
After Henderson’s hit, he had to go through more extensive testing.
"We actually thought it was going to be a brain bleed or something," he said.
Instead, doctors found something unexpected: a brain tumor that had to be removed immediately.
"Wow, this is kind of terrifying," Henderson said. "I was concerned I would no longer be able to command my body like I used to."
Two years later, Henderson is doing just fine. If it weren't for that hit and the concussion testing that came afterward, Henderson wonders if his brain tumor would have been spotted before it was too late.
"I didn't think it was going to be anything major," he said.
Henderson no longer plays football. He is still in college working toward a bachelor's in business management.