Michigan State football's Xavier Henderson still contemplating return for a 5th season

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Xavier Henderson remains uncertain about his Michigan State football future beyond the Peach Bowl.

The senior safety said in July this would be his final season with the Spartans. But Monday, Henderson continued to rethink.

“I'm still contemplating a little bit,” Henderson said on a video call from Atlanta. “That's not really something I want to talk about right now. That's the least of our concerns right now. We're worried about Pitt.”

No. 10 MSU (10-2) and the 12th-ranked Panthers (11-2) kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. It will be Henderson’s 46th game as a Spartan and his 33rd straight start, and he could return for a fifth season thanks to the COVID-19 waiver for 2020.

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Michigan State safety Xavier Henderson celebrates a tackle against Michigan running back Blake Corum during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.
Michigan State safety Xavier Henderson celebrates a tackle against Michigan running back Blake Corum during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, earned third-team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention from the league coaches while leading MSU with 95 tackles. Henderson added three sacks, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He is the Spartans’ active tackles leader with 233, which ranks 43rd on the school’s all-time list, and is 97th among active players in the NCAA in tackles.

Henderson played in MSU’s past two bowl games, a loss to Oregon in the 2018 Redbox Bowl and a win over Wake Forest in the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl. He said it is his first time in Atlanta and he's trying to enjoy the moment, visiting Egleston Children's Hospital after Monday’s practice along with coach Mel Tucker and fellow captains Payton Thorne, Drew Beesley and Luke Campbell.

“It's been fun. I missed this,” Henderson said. “The last one, the Pinstripe Bowl, was actually really fun up in New York. But this has been fun, they've treated us really well.

“Opportunities like this, you never think when you're younger that football can take you this far. And that's something that I like to think about. It's kind of crazy to me. We're pretty blessed.”

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Activities abound

Michigan State practices at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday prior to Thursday's Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
Michigan State practices at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday prior to Thursday's Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The Spartans captured the Peach Bowl’s “Battle Belt” by sweeping the three cross-team activities: Saturday’s team basketball challenge, Sunday’s driving event at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games and Monday’s “Football Feud” trivia contest during the Battle for Bowl Week dinner at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Both teams also got a chance to tour the Hall of Fame, which moved to Atlanta in 2014 from South Bend, Indiana, where it had resided near Notre Dame since 1992. Beesley, a sixth-year senior defensive end, loved being able share in the Battle for the Belt competition with his teammates as his college career comes to an end.

“This is definitely a good team-bonding experience, this being our last moments together,” he said. “So I'm hoping that all of our guys are savoring every moment.”

Possible hire

Michigan State's tight ends coach Ted Gilmore, left, talks with offensive analyst Effrem Reed during the Meet the Spartans open practice on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
Michigan State's tight ends coach Ted Gilmore, left, talks with offensive analyst Effrem Reed during the Meet the Spartans open practice on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports reported MSU was close to making a hire for an assistant to coach running backs. And Tucker did not have to look too far.

The Spartans reportedly are in talks to bring back Effrem Reed, who served as an offensive analyst and worked with the running backs the past two seasons. The 29-year-old earlier this month accepted the running backs assistant position at Georgia Southern, but MSU is losing William Peagler to Florida after the Peach Bowl.

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Reed played for offensive coordinator Jay Johnson at Louisiana from 2012-15, and served as the Rajun’ Cajuns' director of player engagement in 2018 and a defensive graduate assistant in 2019.

Tucker also has to replace former cornerbacks coach Travares Tillman, who accepted the same position at his alma mater Georgia Tech earlier this month.

“I'm going to take my time with the hires and make sure we get the folks here that will be the right fit for our culture," Tucker said Monday.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football's Xavier Henderson mulling return