Saying it felt like he had never left the Vikings family, E.J. Henderson officially returned to it today.

The Vikings announced that their former linebacker, who played nine seasons for the team, would join their front office as their Youth Football Manager. In the position, Henderson will work to push safety initiatives in youth football while also promoting the sport and the Vikings organization at a grassroots level, from children in the Twin Cities to the suburbs and throughout the entire state.

He will also assist with the team’s youth football programs such as the Vikings of Tomorrow, Community Quarterback Awards, the All-State High School Football Team and Heads Up Football.

“I’m super excited. I’ve been dealing with youth football with the Vikings since I was a player and even after I retired,” Henderson said. “This is kind of an extension of that and I’m excited about it.”

The Vikings had been working on the creation of this position for a couple of years, and they recently conducted an “exhaustive” search that netted 150 applicants. But it was Henderson’s passion and charisma, along with an impressive presentation that he gave to Vikings ownership, that convinced them that the former Pro Bowler and five-time captain was right for the job.

“He’s always been a part of the Vikings family,” Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Lester Bagley said. “He has done a great job in our community as a player and since he was a player. … He’s a leader, and we’re very excited to have him in this role. He has the connection and the ability to reach kids in the city, in the suburbs and throughout the state of Minnesota. He brings instant credibility and visibility to this role.”

Henderson, 34, was a second-round pick in 2003. He played 125 games over nine seasons with the team, recording 752 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and five interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and played his final season in the league the following year.

“E.J. has been a special part of the Vikings organization for many years as a player and alumni member, and we are thrilled to have him join us as part of our front office staff,” Vikings owner Mark Wilf said. “He has always had a commitment to the Minnesota community, and this role will be an excellent fit for him and the Vikings.”

Henderson said that his father has worked in a youth center in Maryland for more than two decades, so he spent at a lot of time at the youth center. He felt it helped him mature and stay out of trouble, so now he is happy to mentor kids and teach them life lessons along with football lessons.

“It’s huge to be back in the fold, back to being part of the family,” Henderson said. “It feels like I never left. The complex where I went to work for nine-plus years, that’s where I’m going to work now. So it should be a pretty smooth transition as far as dealing with the family in the building.”

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