Unlike many of his teammates, Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry was well aware of the animosity that many of the program’s older fans have toward Texas.
That’s because his dad Mark - a former Razorback offensive lineman - played against Longhorns back when both were in the Southwest Conference.
So when the dad called to wish his son happy birthday, the AdvoCare Texas Bowl matchup on Dec. 29 in Houston between Arkansas (6-6) and Texas (6-6) naturally came up.
“I called him the other day when we found out,” Hunter Henry said. “ It was the day of my birthday…We started talking about the game and we talked about it just going back to his days. That was a big rivalry for him. He has a strong hatred towards Texas so he was excited.”
The younger Henry said the hate had not carried over.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Henry said. “I am just excited to go down there and play them.”
It’s clear that getting to 7-6 and having a winning season for the Razorbacks is big for Henry, his teammates and the coaches.
“It is going to be huge, especially because that will give us a winning season for Coach B and for ourselves,” Henry said. “That would be big momentum, just having that behind us knowing what we can do next year going into and just having that confidence.”
Henry, who had 36 catches for 495 yards and two touchdowns this season and was second only to Keon Hatcher (39 catches, 517 yards, 5 TDs) in terms of catches and yards, was named second-team on the Coaches’ All-SEC list on Tuesday.
“It is a tremendous honor and it just humbles me,” Henry said. “To be able to do that from just from last year to this year is a huge tremendous honor to just be on the list and represent Arkansas.”
Henry says he went into the season trying to become more than just a receiving threat.
“I think I improved my overall game from last year,” Henry said. “Just my complete game. Last year I could go out in the passing game, I knew I was going to be able to do that.
“But really this off-season I wanted to get bigger and stronger and through the spring and fall camp I wanted to work on my blocking, be physical and downhill blocking,” Henry said. “I feel like I improved on that so much just from my hand placement and my leverage and different things like that. I was able to have a complete game this year.”
Arkansas has started preparations for the bowl game this week with a pair of workouts.
“Yep, we are getting after it,” Henry said. “Get on the practice field a couple of days before finals and then get back on the practice field so it will be good.”
He has started watching film of the Longhorns.
“I have watched a little film on Texas just myself and we have watched it together a little bit today,” Henry said. “We are really going to start digging into it more.”
Henry has been impressed with what he sees out of the Longhorns.
“They are almost like an SEC defense,” Henry said. “They are big, fast, physical - a lot of athletes on the field that can really run. It is going to be a big match-up for us, a big challenge."
He was not recruited by head coach Charlie Strong at Louisville before he moved on to take over Texas opening.
“I don’t know much about him, but he is a great coach,” Henry said. “As you can see with what he has done in just one year with him. He instills a physical run (offense) and a physical defense, too. He is a great defensive-minded coach so it is going to be a big challenge.”
It certainly would help Arkansas if senior tight end A.J. Derby (22 catches, 303 yards, 3 TDs), who missed the season finale with Missouri due to injury, can return for the bowl game.
“It would be great,” Henry said. “He is another threat out on the field that they have to worry about. Just not focus in on me or Keon (Hatcher) or Demetrius (Wilson) or someone else - another wide receiver or anybody. Just having so many threats on the field is big for all of us.”
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen did play at Missouri despite a torn oblique.
“It was really gutsy,” Henry said. “We rallied behind him after that. You can just tell how bad he wants it, how bad he wants to win, how bad he wants to be on the field with us, just competing and trying to lead us to a win.
“We let some hits get on him at the end there that we really didn’t want, but he continued to get up and battle,” Henry added.
“I knew he was hurting, but I didn’t know how bad until there at the end when I could really see him, see how bad he is really hurting,” Henry said. “It was pretty bad. He was getting banged around, but you could just still see in his eyes and he was saying ‘let’s go, let’s go’ and having that same control (of the huddle) that he has had all season. Even when he was getting banged up.”
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