The Story of 24

1 Nov

Nigel Malone got the news as he drove across the Bay Bridge, heading away from Oakland to a friend’s house over the summer. Dave Henderson, whom Malone had played with at City College of San Francisco, had been shot in the head. All sorts of things ran though Malone’s mind. One in particular sticks with him.

“That could have been me,” Malone said. “I could have been at that place with him. He was a good friend of mine. I had planned on seeing him.”

From an early age, dreams of football motivated Malone to stay on a certain path. When he lived in Oakland and commuted daily to practice at City College of San Francisco, there were plenty of distractions available, but Malone had understood for years that to be successful in football, those had to be avoided.

Henderson encountered those distractions as well, and though he had been trying to clean up his act, all that he was involved in eventually caught up to him.

“He was living fast, and if you live by that gun, you’re going to die by it,” Malone said, “and unfortunately it got him.”

After being shot, Henderson remained on life support for a week and died the day Malone began summer classes at Kansas State. He had turned 21 years old in January.

“There’s somebody who had all the talent in the world,” Malone said. “You can definitely go look up his name – Dave Henderson. He was the best running back in San Francisco history. Broke all O.J. Simpson’s rushing records, one of the best athletes to come out of San Francisco. Somebody who I had sweated it out with back at City, going through all that stuff.”

“It’s just unfortunate that he never got the opportunities that I have.”

Malone could not visit Henderson in the hospital because he had to leave for Manhattan, but coach Bill Snyder’s emphasis on dedicating each game to someone brought an opportunity for Malone to pay tribute to his friend.

The cornerback – now with six interceptions, the second-highest total in the nation – had been wearing 21 throughout spring ball, but after talking to Snyder, he decided to change it to 24, the number worn by Henderson.

What happened to his friend is just another reason that Malone finds it amazing that he is where he is.

“It’s just kind of crazy how God works, putting me in the position that I am now,” Malone said. “I’m really just blessed and I’m thankful I’m in this position.”

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One Response to “The Story of 24”

  1. Austin Kitch November 2, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    Sad, a tragic story. Hopefully Nigel will continue to honor his friend with similar outstanding performances.

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