HEARTS ace Euan Henderson has revealed he shunned a burgeoning rugby career to pursue his football dream.
The 19-year-old was one of the brightest schoolboy talents in the country with an oval ball during his days playing for Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh.
The precocious outside winger was even called up to represent Scotland under-16s at the Conwy International Rugby Festival in Wales in 2016, a four-nation tournament which included the hosts, France and Italy.
Former teammates and close friends Jack Blain and Conor Boyle are now on the books of Pro League side Edinburgh Rugby, underlining the potential pathway Henderson could have followed.
But the Jambos wide-man, who this week signed a new deal until the summer of 2022, has no regrets about committing to football.
“I played rugby when I was younger but there came a point when I had to choose and I always wanted to play football,” recalled Henderson.
“I was at Stewart’s Melville and then got selected to play for Scotland under-16s.
“I was an outside winger and was pretty highly-rated – one of the coaches did tell me I could potentially go on and have a career in rugby.
“Two of my mates at the time, Jack Blain and Conor Boyle, signed pro contracts with Edinburgh so the route was definitely there.
“But I’ve always wanted to play football since I was a boy.
“It was compulsory to play rugby at high school and I just happened to have a knack for it. It was never my passion. I was still playing football every day after school.”
His decision received a firm thumbs-up from his family, who have since watched him rise from Hutchison Vale boys club to the Hearts first-team, making 27 senior appearances already.
Henderson laughed: “Rugby is a bit more dangerous so I think my mum was happier for me to choose football too. I’ve always been quite stocky and physical but it didn’t stop her from wincing at every tackle.
“I could handle myself back then but I don’t think so now – my mates are absolutely huge!”
While he never fell in love with rugby, he does appreciate the versatility it afforded him on the football pitch.
Former Hearts boss Craig Levein has previously praised Henderson for his positioning and awareness, as well as his tireless pressing – and the youngster reckons a grounding in rugby helps.
He added: “It’s a different skill-set and does make you think about your movement a different way. I’m quite a direct runner because of that too. Constant pressing and intensity are sort of drilled into you. It’s something that is positive to have on my CV, for sure.”