He’s been too heavy and too light. There have been injury rehabilitations and an off the field issue. Some have said he wasn’t a good enough blocker, and there have at times been drops.
Reading that you might suspect we are talking about a hyped recruit who never reached his potential. But no, Peyton Hendershot ranks second on Indiana’s tight ends career list with 10 touchdowns, and he sits third with 90 receptions and 936 yards.
Despite his accomplishments to date, there is a renewed level of confidence emanating from Hendershot and his position coach Kevin Wright. And that is because for the first time in a long time, Hendershot is preparing to play with nothing on his mind except football.
“He’s had a great offseason, and the big thing was with COVID and he had a couple surgeries going into last year he was never able to get himself physically to the point that he wanted to be during the season,” tight ends coach Kevin Wright said on Friday. “He played at about 240 last year, this year he’s at 252 or 253, body fat percentage is down, running better. He’s just had a tremendous camp.”
Hendershot has come a long way over the last 18 months. Coming off a 2019 season that saw him set the Indiana single-season tight end records with 52 receptions, things quickly turned south, and the hits just kept coming.
“I had shoulder surgery the middle of January (2020), and I got ankle surgery two weeks later,” Hendershot said on Friday. “Three weeks later, got arrested, got suspended, and then three weeks later COVID happened so I really couldn’t get any kind of treatment on my body.”
The setbacks meant Hendershot was never fully ready for the 2020 season. That was true for a lot of players who depend on weight and strength for leverage in the trenches. The knock on the North Salem, Ind. product as he developed at IU was that he wasn’t a great blocker, and the disruptive offseason only magnified things in that regard.
Hendershot was named third team All-Big Ten after the 2020 season despite everything he dealt with going into his redshirt junior campaign. That was largely based on his abilities as a receiver. Now that he has completed an offseason without distractions, Wright sees a player truly ready to put it all together.
“He’s always had good ball skills, but I think what you’ll see is one of the better blocking tight ends in the Big Ten, and that’s just a byproduct of all the work he’s put in,” Wright said. “He’s one of the strongest guys on the team in general. … I think that he is 100 percent bought in to the fact that ‘hey I want to be the best overall player at tight end that I can be, not just a guy that goes out and catches footballs.”
Hendershot credits strength coach Aaron Wellman for his successful offseason. He referred to Wellman as the best he’s worked with, in part because the second year staffer has designed a training regimen that translates to his responsibilities on the field.
“I feel probably the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” Hendershot said. “My speed, my strength, everything. For a long time I was trying to figure out a weight that was a good weight for me. My sophomore year I was 265, last year I was a little too light.
If he has a 2021 season where everything comes together like the offseason that preceded it, the 6-foot-4 Hendershot could be waiting for his name to be called at the 2022 NFL Draft. That is an outcome that felt distant a year ago but one he now feels fully prepared to chase.
“Coming into last year it was like an ‘am I ready to go thing,’ not confident, and this year I’ve had probably the best offseason I’ve ever had and this year I’m really focused on ‘I’m ready to go and let’s have a big year,'” Hendershot said.
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