July 15, 2020 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
As a wide receiver for Liberty University’s football team, Gabe Henderson (’14, ’18) exuded positive energy — both in the locker room and on the field, where he helped lead the Flames to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs for the first time as a senior.
These days, he is creating a similar vibe around the NFL as a creative content specialist for the Washington Redskins over the past two seasons and, since April, a digital media producer and on-air talent with the Minnesota Vikings’ Entertainment Network.
“I tell people all the time, you can make it to the NFL without playing,” Henderson said. “Granted, I’m not on the field, but I am part of the team.”
In 2010, Henderson was the second-rated quarterback in North Carolina when he was recruited by the Flames. He switched to wide receiver his junior year and eventually had a couple workouts with NFL teams at that position.
But, inspired by sports broadcasting legends like David Aldridge, Ahmad Rashad, and Stuart Scott, he discovered his true passion was for broadcasting, a specialization of his undergraduate communication degree.
For a class project his senior year, Henderson spent more than a month filming a documentary on Liberty’s softball team in former Olympic gold medalist Dot Richardson’s first season at the helm.
“Looking at it now, it turned out terrible, but after I did that documentary, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” Henderson said. “I learned so many things from my mistakes.”
While he is humble, Henderson said boldness and persistence were required as he took a leap of faith to launch his career in the NFL media market after receiving over 200 rejection letters.
“In this industry, you have to be confident in what you do,” he said.
Henderson, who added minors in sport management and cinematic arts his senior year and a master’s degree in sport management in 2018, became more natural in front of the camera as video coordinator for Liberty’s Club Sports programs from 2015-18. The job stretched him out of his comfort zone, covering sports ranging from hockey and lacrosse to paintball and taekwondo.
Now, he lets his personality shine through in interviews with NFL players, coaches, and even Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman the day before the NFL Draft in April.
“That was cool, being a part of history for the NFL’s first virtual draft, and our draft video numbers were out of this world as far as total views,” Henderson said, noting that a Vikings social media post announcing his hiring attracted over 70,000 views. “We’ve got a strong fan base.”
His job allows him to share insight into the sport he grew up playing in Raleigh, N.C.
“Being a former player, I have a general knowledge of what goes on in the locker room and understand the nuances of the game, and that helps in being able to explain it to the fans,” he said.
Henderson recently moved from a suburb of Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, to work out of the Vikings’ offices.
“Whereas D.C. is one of the most diverse cities in America, Minneapolis is not as diverse, so for me being in a front-facing position for the Vikings as a black male speaks volumes,” he said. “I think it provides inspiration for younger people and it makes me more excited to go because I know God didn’t put me in a position like this without a reason. I’m just believing He is going to use me in a way that I can’t even imagine.”
As a man of God, Henderson seeks to model Christ’s love and live out his faith while testifying that anyone can achieve their dreams by believing in themselves.
He is able to communicate that message while pursuing his professional calling, through candid and engaging exchanges with players, coaches, and staff that resonate on a personal level.
“What I try to do before I interview these players is come off as just a normal guy, instead of a reporter,” Henderson said. “I explain to them that, ‘This is an interview, but I want to put you in your element. I want to have a conversation.’ People like talking about themselves. They just don’t always know how.”
While Henderson uses his football background and on-camera charisma to relate to professional athletes, his wife, Julia (’16), who earned her B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences at Liberty with minors in psychology and family and child development, will teach at a high school just outside of the Twin Cities. In 2019, Julia Henderson was named New Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Association for Career & Technical Education.
In Washington, Henderson said Julia connected with several Redskins players and their wives, joining them for weekly Bible studies. While she enjoys football, he said, “she cares more about these guys as human beings, their faith walks, and how she can impact their lives and their wives’ lives through education and Christianity.”
Through his side videography business, Our Story Lines Media, which he launched in 2016 while working at Liberty, Henderson and his wife inspire others with stories of hope.
“That is something I am extremely passionate about,” Henderson said. “I started Our Story Lines Media with the simple goal of shining a light in this dark world with a camera and microphone. It allows Julia and I to combine our gifts and work together, filming weddings and other storytelling events outside of sports.”
Watch a sizzle reel of Henderson’s videography taken at Liberty and around the NFL.