With academic issues leaving an uncertain future on the field at Montana and unshakable feelings of melancholy lingering, Griz wide receiver Ellis Henderson announced Saturday that he will forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft.
Henderson, the Grizzlies' second-leading receiver in 2015 who missed most of 2014 while battling anxiety and depression, said he felt like a continual sadness followed him in Missoula. It weighed on his performance -- both academically and athletically.
"To be 100 percent honest, this last semester was one of the worst academic semesters I've had since I've been at the University of Montana," he told the Missoulian late Saturday night. "A lot of people know there's a lot that factors into that, not just my academic ability."
Henderson withdrew from classes and left the Grizzlies football team midseason to seek medical treatment near his native Vancouver, Washington in Oct. 2014. He was granted a medical redshirt -- he was diagnosed with depression as well as irritable bowel syndrome -- and a subsequent year of eligibility, returning to UM as a redshirt junior again in 2015.
He caught 40 passes for 817 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
But a class load of 18 credits to make up for lost time proved to be "a lot of weight on top of trying to knock all the rust off that I had accumulated the last year."
Henderson no longer felt like he belonged at Montana.
"When it comes to having a program rely on you, a team rely on you, and those problems arise with depression, it just becomes an uphill battle," he said. "If the organization understood the battle better, there wouldn't be as many issues. I don't think (Montana) was ready to deal with the burden of having a player with anxiety and depression.
"... That's not bagging on the program by any means -- I appreciate everything they've done for me -- but I thought it was time for something new."
The 23-year-old all-Big Sky pick is finalizing the hiring of an agent to pursue a professional football future, he said.
For now he plans to continue working out in Portland and Seattle with a weight lifted off his chest. Henderson is keeping his goals reasonable, though. A pick in the NFL draft, which begins April 28, is a long shot.
"I'm not expecting to get drafted," Henderson confided. "With my circumstances, it's a little unorthodox. I'm sure it'll scare off potential scouts and teams.
"My situation is already weird as it is, but I am looking for an opportunity and I think that's out there. When I do find it, I want to be able to take full advantage of it."
Henderson, who transferred to UM from Hawaii after one year in 2012, leaves Montana among the Grizzlies' all-time leading receivers. His 2,295 career yards are 10th in program history and his 23 TDs are seventh.
The Griz have now lost their top three receivers from last season along with the exit of seniors Jamaal Jones and Ben Roberts to graduation. Senior-to-be Ryan Burke, who was projected to be a starter at the beginning of fall camp last year, also recently retired due to concussion issues.