Hunter Henry has had plenty of things going on to keep his mind off the most important decision of his life.
While the junior tight end considers whether to return to Arkansas for his senior season or turn pro, he has been racking up several accolades.
USA Today and the Walter Camp Football Foundation named him a first-team all-American, the SEC coaches made him as a first-team all-SEC selection and he won the John Mackey Award, which he went to Atlanta to receive during the College Football Awards show Thursday.
“It was just cool to be around all of those guys that you go against and some of the guys you see play on TV,” Henry said. “To be amongst those guys was fun.”
Henry was reunited with Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who he played with in the 2013 Under Armor All-America game coming out of high school.
Treadwell didn’t say much about their game earlier in the season, in which Henry made a lateral to Alex Collins on a fourth-and-25 play that ultimately led to the Razorbacks’ overtime win.
That didn’t stop several Alabama players from talking about it.
“The Alabama guys liked to talk about it, but Ole Miss didn’t want to,” Henry said. “I actually had a couple of guys come up to me and thank me for beating Ole Miss.”
Henry is the second Arkansas player to win the Mackey Award, joining D.J. Williams, who won the award for college football’s top tight end in 2010.
The Razorbacks are the only team to win the award twice since it was created in 2000.
Williams – a fellow Little Rock native – reached out to Henry before the award was announced.
“It’s pretty special,” Henry said. “There must be something going on here. It’s two guys from the same city, too, so that’s pretty cool. It’s an honor to represent this state.”
Little Rock also produced another well-known tight end: former Oklahoma star and College Football Hall of Famer Keith Jackson, who is know the Razorbacks’ color commentator during radio broadcasts of Arkansas football games.
Henry said he developed a relationship with Jackson after last season.
“I actually reached out to Keith and he helped me out on some things,” Henry said. “We got together two or three times in the offseason and he really helped me out with a lot of my route running, with a lot of technique and what to look at studying film.”
That advice contributed to a junior season in which he caught 46 passes for 647 yards, both of which lead the SEC among tight ends.
The performance has caused many of his friends to badger him with questions about skipping his senior season and entering the NFL draft.
He hasn’t given in, though, and said he only talks to his family and very close friends about the upcoming decision.
“It’s a crazy process when you start thinking about it and looking at both sides,” Henry said. “It’s a good problem to have. I’m blessed to be in this situation. I’m going to make the smartest decision for myself and my parents are behind me 100 percent.”
Henry is waiting to receive a draft grade and feedback from the NFL.
The chance to be the first back-to-back winner of the Mackey Award won’t factor into his decision, but he said school would. He is on track to graduate from the business college in December 2016.
Despite all of the potential distractions, Henry said his teammates and coaches won’t let him lose sight of his No. 1 focus: the Liberty Bowl.
“I’m here now,” Henry said. “This is the most important thing to me. I love it here. I love being here.
“I’m looking forward to going to the bowl and playing Kansas State and enjoying the whole process.”