Henry Pearson’s sophomore season at Paramus (NJ) Catholic High School was disappointing for the star tight end.
”We went 3-6 with, in my opinion, much better talent but we just weren’t disciplined,” Pearson recalls.
Just one season later, Pearson and Paramus Catholic were busy crafting a 10-2 record and winning the NJSIAA State Championship. To what, or more specifically whom, does Pearson credit the shocking turnaround?
”First, to start off the season, we had Coach (Dan) Sabella who was our brand new coach, he’d just come into the league after starting out at a public school,” Pearson says. “We were all kind of iffy with him starting out in his first year, you know, and he completely turned around the program and we were able to win it.
”One of the main things Coach Sabella focused on, is discipline. And, it completely changed our program and I thank him for that.”
Coach Sabella would probably also throw a little credit for the championship season to Pearson, after Pearson caught 27 passes for 392 yards (14.5 per catch) and four touchdowns. He was also a key blocker, primarily out of the H-back slot, for a Paramus Catholic running game that totaled just over 3,000 yards (250.7 yards per game) for the season.
Pearson was named first team NJSFC All-Division and first team All-Bergen County following his breakout season.
”Definitely down in the red zone trying to get me the ball, definitely some blocking, basically everything that I consider myself as a tight end,” Pearson said of the keys he focuses on come game time. “It’s hard to pinpoint just a couple of things, but I lined up in the back field as almost a fullback or H-back almost as much as at tight end.”
Knowing that their championship season places a target on Paramus Catholic, Pearson is prepared for the additional leadership that will be required from him as a veteran.
”Definitely stepping up and motivating my teammates and everything - be a leader in the weight room, leading by example,” said Pearson. “We had five captains on the team (last season) if that gives you an idea of the kind of leadership we had, everybody tried to step up.
”But definitely keep the same leadership as last year, some of the kids who maybe didn’t play as much last year can follow the example of the starters that are coming back.”
Pearson is also seeing recruiting interest start to increase as his senior season approaches and recently made a week-long pilgrimage to North Carolina and Virginia to make campus visits, including an impactful day at Appalachian State.
And, to address that question in your mind right away, how does a Jersey guy end up with App State on his radar?
For starters Pearson’s dad was once a Mountaineer himself, attending Appalachian and playing football as a walk-on for two years before transferring. But, Henry’s interest extends beyond just his dad’s experience.
”It’s a funny story; my dad has a business down in Spruce Pine (NC), he has a factory there and people that he works with - the manager of the building, right next to him is actually a coach’s wife – they told us all about (App State),” Pearson says. “This is since I was young, so we decided maybe we’ll go.
”This whole trip came up to North Carolina so I texted my coach and got the Twitter handle for Andrew Blaylock (App State Director of High School Relations), he followed me back, and I asked him if I could come down.”
Despite his New Jersey roots, Pearson is no stranger to the area. In addition to Spruce Pine being less than 40 miles from Boone, Pearson has spent leisure time in the vicinity.
”We would go down all the time, mostly hunting, every year for turkey and deer with a guy my dad knows from his business,” Pearson said. “He has a place with 100 acres and a cabin and stuff, and we would spend a weekend or two out there just living like lumberjacks.”
Still, his App State knowledge prior to the visit was admittedly minimal.
”I knew it was in Boone, but that’s about it, really,” Pearson confesses. “I knew that they were up and coming, but I didn’t know how far they had actually come.”
So, what did Pearson take away from his day with Mountaineer staff, learning about the program from the inside out?
”Definitely the ’05, ’06, ’07 run of national championships. How, maybe 15-20 years ago, they weren’t as strong and then they came on and won the national championships. Then they moved into (FBS) and won the Camellia Bowl two years in a row and won the Sun Belt Championship, stuff they’d never down before,” says Pearson.
On the football facilities, Pearson drew comparisons between App State and the other programs he visited during his week of visits, which included Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Elon.
”There was a lot of stone in that locker room, it was a beautiful locker room. It was actually one of the more beautiful locker rooms that I saw on my trip to be honest,” Pearson says. “Moving to the outside, they told me about coming down that hill and the fans giving everyone high fives coming into the stadium. That’s really cool.”
Pearson also got a look around campus, including the academic facility of greatest interest.
”They toured us around campus on golf carts. I want to major in business so they took us to the business school and showed us classrooms and everything,” Pearson said. “That was really interesting.”
Then, Pearson joined the Mountaineers on the field to watch a spring practice session up close, and he shared his observations.
”It was great, we got to see the intensity of the team and how fired up they get, even so early with a little bit of cold weather, as it is,” Pearson said. “The team was great.”
Pearson’s day concluded with the head Mountaineer, as Head Coach Scott Satterfield not only took some time to speak with Henry but also had more than simple conversation in mind, as Pearson details.
”I got to talk to Coach Satterfield a lot; he told me he liked the way I play, not just as a tight end but as the H-back and that I like to do everything. He talked about his history, how he walked on, just a lot of things,” Pearson says, before revealing the key portion of the conversation.
”Then, he offered me.”
Pearson recalls his immediate thoughts in the moments after Satterfield extended that offer.
”My first thought was, ‘Wow, I might actually get to play down here.’ It really is a dream of mine to get to go to school in North Carolina,” Pearson reveals. “I can be down by my dad’s business and follow in his footsteps. Also, just come down and be in this environment; down in the mountains, near the valley with mountains all around me.”
Pearson does plan to make at least one more visit as the summer and fall progress.
”I would probably come down in the summer, but if not the summer definitely the fall,” Pearson says. “Go down and see a game, go down and be in the Spruce Pine area.”
Before finishing the discussion, Pearson reiterates his interest in a permanent southern address.
”I want to go down south, because they get all of the seasons. So, I definitely want to have all the seasons. I also want to be in the mountains, those are basically the geographical attributes of the college I’d want. Not too warm, not too cold, just up in the mountains,” Pearson concludes. “So, basically, App State.”
HENRY PEARSON 2016 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS