Vikings' Henderson gets answers on how to ask questions

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 20, 2013 - 7:53 AM

Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson was among those who took part in an NFL workshop on writing and interviewing.

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Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson said he had a new appreciation of what writers go through after the journalism boot camp.

Photo: Photo courtesy of JEN SCUTERI and NFL,

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Four words you never thought you’d see together?

Try these: “print journalism” and “boot camp.”

Twenty-three former and current NFL players took part in “The NFL Sports Journalism and Communications Boot Camp” at Bowling Green State University in Ohio last week. Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson was one of them and for three days, he basically lived the life of a print journalist, except for the Marriott points and the $4 million he will earn over the next two years, of course.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Henderson said. “It’s long days. We hit it pretty hard last Tuesday, so you knew you were in a boot camp.”

As part of the program, Henderson and the pack of jackals, er, “journalists” conducted mock interviews with Bowling Green football coach Dave Clawson and Toledo Mud Hens General Manager Joe Napoli. They wrote a news story off their interview with Napoli and covered a Mud Hens home game. They had two hours to write a column on one of five topics they had to choose from. Then they had to condense the column into a two-minute opinion piece for radio.

First, the interviews. How’d that go, Erin?

“We prepared the questions for [Clawson] the night before,” Henderson said. “I started out asking him about spring ball and recruiting and what a player could expect from him as a head coach.”

Then?

“I snuck in a question about a possible quarterback controversy because they got more than one out here who has a chance,” Henderson said. “I asked him, point blank, who the starting quarterback is going to be. He kind of chuckled and ignored me.”

Been there, done that, big fella.

Sports and tragedy

Henderson was one of only three NFL players under contract to take part in the boot camp. Four former Vikings — Ralph Brown, Byron Chamberlain, Denard Walker and Ellis Wyms — also participated, as did former NFL linebacker Jay Foreman of Eden Prairie.

The instructors included Associated Press NFL writer Barry Wilner, longtime Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers reporter Ed Bouchette, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and former NFL-players-turned-journalists Solomon Wilcots (CBS, NFL Network) and Matt Bowen (Chicago Tribune).

Now, about that column, Erin?

“There were topics like, ‘Is Chip Kelly going to be a success in the NFL?’ but I wanted to choose something that would take me out of my comfort zone,” Henderson said. “So I chose the topic, ‘Should we discontinue sporting events after tragic events like the Boston Marathon bombing?’ ”

And?

“I didn’t feel we should cancel anything,” Henderson said. “As tragic as that was, you can’t give the people who commit terrorist attacks any more power over us than they already have. Going on with sporting events sends a message that no matter what happens, we’re always going to get back up.”

Henderson had two hours to write that in 500 to 800 words.

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