When Oklahoma returned to Norman after its 55-20 win over Florida in the Cotton Bowl, coach Lincoln Riley approached then-H-back Mikey Henderson about converting to running back, moments before his freshman year exit interview.
It wasn’t a new thought, however. Henderson was told by Riley he wasn’t “limited to one position” when going through the high school recruiting process as a three-star athlete from Irving, Texas. Although he wasn’t nationally rated by Rivals, Henderson chose OU over the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Oregon.
Henderson emerged in the Sooners’ home game against Oklahoma State last season on Nov. 21. He received just six touches, but garnered a career-high 81 total yards. More importantly, Henderson’s 20-yard touchdown reception to put OU up 14-0 in the first quarter, showcased his ability in the backfield.
After that game, Henderson knew he belonged, and later, knew that the position change was imminent.
“That was like, a big confidence builder for myself,” Henderson said in a Thursday press conference. “I always knew I had it in me, but just to go out there and finally show it on that stage in a game like that, that was a real confidence builder for me, most definitely.”
Fast forward to 2021 spring practices, and Henderson has fully transitioned into a new position with the running backs and their coach, DeMarco Murray. Henderson, a high school quarterback until his senior year, credited his knowledge of running an offense to his quick position shift.
Riley wanted the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder at running back for his versatility, whether it was rushing the ball out of the backfield, blocking or even motioning to the slot as a receiving specialist.
“He’s picked up on everything really well,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler said. “He’s a big dude, he can run, (you) can take him out the backfield, get him the ball in his hands in space. And that’s how we’ve been utilizing him. He can do it all. So he’s another guy I’m really excited to see grow during the season. He’s one of the guys I want to see really pop off here, during this next season.”
The Sooners added redshirt junior Kennedy Brooks, who’s back from opting-out due to COVID-19 a year ago, and junior Eric Gray, who transferred from Tennessee, to the running back room. Despite the additions, along with the development of sophomore Seth McGowan and redshirt sophomore Marcus Major, Henderson still hopes for a major impact in 2021.
“The most important thing (is) he’s continuing to get better and better,” Murray said. “He’s a great kid (and) works hard every single day in the weight room and in practice.
“We’re excited about him.”