RECRUITING: Chas Henry Commits To Gators

Growing up as a Tennessee fan in a home where both parents are Tennessee grads, the week the Vols played the Florida Gators was always special for Chas Henry. He grew up appreciating the color, the pageantry and the intensity of this Southeastern Conference rivalry that has become one of the most anticipated early season games every September.

((See Chas Henry profile)

He's going to be part of the rivalry now, only it won't be as a Tennessee Vol. The punter from Dallas, Georgia, told Coach Urban Meyer Saturday morning that he's going to be a Florida Gator.

"I have committed to Florida and I'm going to be a Gator," said Henry, who came to Gainesville for Friday night Lights where he put on an impressive display, hitting one bomb after another that went high and deep.

Henry is a 6-2, 190-pounder who not only punts but plays quarterback for East Paulding High School. He averaged 46.1 yards per punt as a junior and he also had a 51-yard field goal to his credit as the team's placekicker.

As you could imagine, growing up in a home where both parents went to Tennessee, he was a big Vol fan. His older sister also went to Tennessee, graduating from UT two years ago. But even though his home was part of the Big Orange Nation, there was something about the Florida Gators that always intrigued Chas.

"I was raised a Tennessee fan because my parents graduated from Tennessee and my sister just two years ago graduated from UT, also," said Henry Saturday afternoon. "When I was growing up and it was Florida-Tennessee week, everybody hated Spurrier but they were always a great team and it seems they always beat Tennessee. One thing about them though, they always had a great team, a great legacy and a great tradition. When I talked to Coach Meyer, I decided that I want to be a part of the Florida tradition. I want to be a Gator."

With Florida losing Eric Wilbur, who will handle the punting chores for the Gators for the fourth straight year this fall, Henry will be filling a position of need for Florida. That had something to do with the attraction to UF as did the way that Meyer runs the punting unit. Florida finished among the nation's leaders in net punting last year, allowing just 61 total punt return yards on 62 punts. Additionally, fake punts contributed mightily to wins over Georgia and Iowa.

The fact that Henry is a quarterback who runs the ball well and has a better than average arm was a real selling point. In the Meyer scheme of things when it comes to special teams, that only adds brand new dimensions.

"We've talked about that quite a lot," said Henry. "He told me he is really intrigued by the thought of having a punter that can throw as well as run. We talked a lot about fakes and how we can use that to change games up.

"I may get a chance to work with the quarterbacks and do some drills and work with them so I can be a kind of emergency guy. I've done drills with Coach Mullen and they've seen what I can do. They think I could be something like a number three or four guy, there in reserve if they needed me."

He's known for hitting punts that travel well past 50 yards but now he's learning more of the nuances of punting, things like hang time, angling the ball away from returners and hitting the coffin corner. The secret to good punting, he says, isn't in the velocity of the leg swing but in good timing and hitting the ball at just the right spot on his foot every time.

"It's more about the timing and hitting it smoothly," he said. "When my dad and I play golf he's always saying 'slow and it goes.' A slow back swing and a smooth follow through and the ball goes a long way. It's the same with punting. Just relax, take a smooth swing at the ball and hit it right and it goes a long way."

As a placekicker, he's long and accurate, too. In the same game last year when he hit the 51-yarder, he just barely missed a 52-yarder when he pushed the ball slightly to the left and it missed by a foot or so.

"At Florida I might be a second string kicker and I might get a chance to kickoff, too," he said. "That's pretty exciting, too."

He enjoyed the entire atmosphere of Friday Night Lights but there was one moment in particular that lingers in his thoughts.

"We're all standing there and looking up at the jumbotron when they played that highlight video," he recalled. "That was unreal and then when all the gators go sliding into the water … I feel the tingles on my skin now just thinking about it. I can't wait until I can run out on the field when the stadium is full right after they play that video for everybody in the stadium."

Henry has a 3.8 grade point average. He scored 1180 on the math-verbal part of the SAT and he had a combined 1740 when the written sector is included. His long range plan is law school, preferably something in the business or real estate law fields.

"At my home and with my parents --- my mother is a teacher --- you're a student athlete and not an athlete student," he said. "With them the academics are everything and they've pushed academics first since I was little. I think they've done a good job of preparing me to go to college."

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