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Va. high school coach holds close ties to Narduzzi, Blewitt

| Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, 8:30 p.m.

Eric Henderson knows his Saturday will be busy, filled with hours of video review and many other tasks a high school football coach encounters on the day after a game.

Henderson coaches at Hayfield High School in Alexandria, Va. His team is 5-1 and averages 49 points. It's a bit of a big deal.

Then, there's his family. His son, Jon, a defensive lineman at Geneva, has a game against Carnegie Mellon on Saturday night.

But through it all, Henderson will take more than a few glances at the telecast of Pitt's game at Virginia.

“If not, I'll record it and watch it later,” he said.

Two of Henderson's favorite people are involved — Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi and kicker Chris Blewitt.

Henderson and Narduzzi were teammates in the late 1980s at Rhode Island.

“We went through our fair share of adversity,” Henderson said. “The guys that got through it were closer friends and stronger people for it. I hope that bond is still there. I think it is.”

Years later, Blewitt entered Henderson's life as a friend of his sons, Jon and Caleb, a quarterback at Maryland. The three friends met in grade school and remain close to this day.

Blewitt, who played for Henderson at West Potomac High School through his junior year, has turned into the most prolific kicker in Pitt history with school records for field goals (52) and kicking points (315) by what he calls “shutting off the brain.”

“You think about things too much,” he said, “you start second-guessing yourself and making mistakes.”

Henderson corrected himself when he called Blewitt “a great kid.”

“He's a man. He's 21.”

But he can be excused.

“Whenever the boys' schedules sync up, we always find Chris in our living room playing Xbox and eating our food,” Henderson said. “We consider him kind of the third son we never had.”

Caleb was a four-star recruit, with an offer from Michigan State when Narduzzi was on the staff.

“We took a trip to East Lansing, and I remember how gracious he was toward my son,” said Henderson, a 26-year coaching veteran. “How professional and people-oriented he was. That's one of the reputations that Pat has. He's a player's coach.

“Not to say he's soft or lacks discipline, but kids will play for him. That's half the battle with today's generation.”

Henderson played offensive tackle, and Narduzzi was a linebacker. They seldom encountered each other in practices, but Henderson said Narduzzi was “as fiery as a player as he was as a coach.”

“You could tell he was part of a football family because he treated it so seriously,” Henderson said. “Intense, attention to detail, doing the right thing.

“You just get it on a different level.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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