EDMOND — The way Edmond Santa Fe’s Walter Henderson talks about track and field, you would think he’s loved the sport all his life. That’s not the case. A year ago, Henderson didn’t care about the sport or know anything about it.
But now? It’s one of the first things Henderson talks about, and coach Carl Hawkins has a hard time trying to get Henderson off the track. "Once I saw all that can be done because of track, man, it’s been incredible,” Henderson said. The truth is the sport has been one of multiple things that have turned Henderson’s life around in the last couple years. Henderson started high school living in Spencer and attending Southeast High. But issues with his mother and his brother and some of his friends had his life heading in a bad direction. "I had to get all the squares out of my circle,” Henderson said. Enter the Deas family. Shelly Deas taught Henderson for three years at KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), an Oklahoma City charter school. When she heard about Henderson’s tough situation, the Deas family was ready to step in. "We really didn’t have that long of a discussion about it, because we wanted to do whatever we could to help Walter,” Deas said. After Shelly and her husband, Matt, discussed it with their children, the Deas took the necessary steps to become Henderson’s legal guardians. Shelly and Matt were worried how Henderson and their oldest son, Blake, would interact with each other. Though the two had been friends for years, it would be different living with each other. There haven’t been any issues, Shelly said. With Henderson’s personal life in order, the next obstacle became the transition of transferring from Southeast to Edmond Santa Fe and starting his junior year. "I was used to playing football in small stadiums with small crowds,” Henderson said. "Then you go to Edmond, and it’s UCO. I mean you can’t have a bigger difference.” Henderson was a running back for Southeast and football was his passion, but he sat out his junior year with the Wolves. Track still wasn’t a part of his life, but Shelly made it happen. She wanted him to be involved in a spring sport, so Henderson reluctantly chose track. That reluctant attitude carried over initially as Henderson was extremely stubborn and wasn’t listening to what Hawkins and the rest of the coaches were saying. Until one day it clicked. "Toward the end of last year, it’s like the light bulb went off in his head,” Hawkins said.