Roedion Henrique: Amsterdam’s intercontinental football ambassador

As the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program combine ended last October, many of Europe’s best American football players were disappointed they weren’t selected. But after swallowing the tough pill, players were left encouraged and invigorated by the new heights being reached by the growth of the American game in their home continent. To Dutch defensive back Reodion Henrique it was simply a taste of what the future could bring.

He knew, despite his initial disappointment, that his worldwide football journey was far from over.

Amsterdam is not known as a recruiting hot bed for NCAA coaches, but the busy capital city’s narrow streets are certainly buzzing with athletic talent. American football has been a small fixture in Amsterdam athletics peaking in the early late 1990s and early 2000s with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. For Amsterdam native Roedion Henrique, American football has taken him on a worldwide journey that started from humble beginnings.

The 6’1″, 198 pound future NFL hopeful originally started playing football at the age of 16 for a local club in Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Panthers. Given his height, weight, and speed, Henrique was drawn to the wide receiver position, using his athleticism and ball skills to stand out from the crowd of other young Dutch players. It didn’t take long for coaches to notice him as a few short years later he was invited to a FBU All European team showcase against a all-star cast of United States high school players. The game was a chance for the Amsterdam native to play in front of college scouts. After competing against some of the best in the United States, Henrique knew playing college football was in his future, but the road to a scholarship would not be straight given his nationality and NCAA eligibility.

“I got invited to participate in FBU showcase with an All-European Team in Texas San Antonio than got in contact with some college coaches but because of paperwork and school papers I couldn’t attend any of the colleges that got in contact with me.”

New Mexico State DB Roedion Henrique #14 making a tackle against Ole Miss receiver

After heading home, the young recruit looked at his options in the US and landed at Reedley Junior College in California. Adjusting to the game the US wasn’t easy, as the intensity of practice and speed of the game increased. Henrique was also tasked with switched positions, having to transform himself from a physical deep threat receiver to a ball hawking defensive back.

“Football in the States is really the next level but I had little guides from some of my peers that did it before such as Geraldo Boldewijn and Ricky Tjong.  They told me what I had to do and what to pay attention to and what to work on to be ready. But I had to adjust real quick to the speed of the game everything was happening fast but with my athletic ability I could keep up pretty much.”

Roedion Henrique #11 leaping over a defender while playing for Reedley Junior College Photo: Sportswurlz

After two years at Reedley Junior College, Henrique had compiled great film which included interceptions, forced fumbles, and unmatched hustle. The next step for him was finding a school where to play his final two years of college football. After considering a few options, the European All-Star landed with New Mexico State University, a NCAA division one program in the Southwest United States, a program with deep connections to his former coaches.

“My last year at my Juco, a couple of schools started to contact me and I had a couple offers. But one of the coaches at New Mexico State University contacted me for a visit and I felt very comfortable with him. I always told myself I will sign to a school where I will have a coach that will help me get better and one of my coaches at my junior college was in the hall of fame at New Mexico State University, so he also told me allot about the program and he also played a big roll in knowing what to expect when I got there.”

Adjusting to Division one football from junior college would be a challenge for any player. For Henrique, switching positions and coming from Europe made his new role at New Mexico State an uphill battle that required a ton of discipline and focus. During his two years playing for the Aggies, the former Amsterdam Panther played in 15 games, made five total tackles, three pass deflections, and was an impact on special teams by blocking a kick against a powerhouse Florida Gators team.

“ Being a foreign student is already hard but being a foreign student athlete I think is even harder. It’s a whole different level of football and especially coming from juco to Division one the transition that you got to make is big and you got to be able to pick up stuff fast. ”

After college, Henrique chose to continue his career, signing with the Hildesheim Invaders in Germany (GFL1). The former Aggie helped the Invaders to a 10-5 record that year and their first playoff appearance in the team’s history, while recording 62 tackles and three interceptions.

“My season in Hildesheim was also a great experience. Playing for the Invaders in the GFL1 was nice. I went into the GFL with a mindset with one job, to be able to dominate at my position showing my skills off and have an impact in my team and the game. And it paid off.”

Photo: Hans-Werner Griepentrog

The impressive stats and film did pay off as Henrique was invited to the NFL’s International Pathway Program Combine where he was joined by his teammate and fellow countryman Jeffrey Juurlink. After the combine, Henrique was also invited to the CFL’s Global draft player pool.

“In my first year and it gave me an opportunity to get an invite to the NFL international combine, which was a great experience and to be able to showcase my talent again.”

The Amsterdam native has been on a wide reaching football journey that started on a flight to Texas over seven years ago. Now after playing college football at the highest level and in Europe’s top league the 26-year-old defensive back is eagerly awaiting his next football adventure.

“I have so much more in me as for football and I just want to better myself every day and year while I’m still playing. I just feel like I’m in my prime so I don’t want to waste any time and just play ball as high as I can just by challenging myself. My goals are to do better than the year before every time, and now I’m just waiting for what next season will bring.”

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football