ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The first thing rookie running back De’Angelo “Hop” Henderson of Coastal Carolina inquired about when the Denver Broncos drafted him was whether No. 33 was available.
Unlike many NFL rookies who have superstitious reasons for seeking certain jersey numbers — and often paying cash to a veteran who already owns it — Henderson wanted the number to honor a friend.
“My fraternity brother Anthony Frye died March 2, 2016,” Henderson said. “He wore No. 33 when he played at Coastal. He was one of my closest friends.”
Frye and Henderson knew each other before they joined Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“I could go on for days about how good of a person he is. How genuine he was. How much we talked about this moment coming,” Henderson said. “I miss him. I definitely want to honor him.”
Frye was killed in a motorcycle accident while on his way to see his girlfriend and newborn child shortly after a fraternity meeting.
“I was the last one to talk to him, the last one to hug him,” Henderson said. “He told me, ‘Text me in 20 minutes.’ He died in 18.”
Henderson wrote “Frye” and “33” on tape around his wrists in honor of his friend last season.
Henderson, who wore No. 31 in college, set an NCAA Division I record by scoring touchdowns in 35 consecutive games. Only Danny Woodhead, who played at the Division III level, had a longer streak — 38 games.
Woodhead is the player scouts compare Henderson to because of their similar size — 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds — and productivity.
The number wasn’t worn by any member of the Broncos last season. The last one to wear 33 in Denver was safety Shiloh Keo in 2015.
“I won’t say luck, I’ll say fate,” Henderson said. “Everything that happens, happens for a reason. The number was open for a reason and I’m blessed to have it.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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