Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

Illinois Fighting Illini impressed early by speedy 2020 Lincoln-Way East RB A.J. Henning

Lincoln-Way East sophomore running back A.J. Henning's speed got the attention of the Illini staff at Saturday's showcase camp

In his first ever college camp, A.J. Henning didn’t allow his age nor his inexperience influence his play.

Henning just finished his freshman year at Lincoln-Way East, but the 5-foot-10 running back ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash -- the fastest of all the campers -- at Saturday's showcase camp in Champaign. That immediately got the attention of the Illinois coaching staff.

“I really liked the camp; I really liked the facility and the coaching staff,” Henning told Illini Inquirer. “They were all very welcoming and cool.”

His blazing speed helped him place third in the 100-meter dash at the IHSA state track meet last weekend.

“The speed just comes natural,” Henning said. “I definitely work on my speed with drills and stuff. But track definitely helps out with that.”

Running backs coach Thad Ward spent a good amount of time with Henning as he tried to establish a relationship with the up-and-coming prospect.

“I talked to (Coach Ward) a lot throughout the day,” Henning said. “He was just helping me hone in on some little stuff. Like some different techniques. And he was just saying how I could get even better.”

Although he was one of the youngest competitors at the camp, he wasn’t intimidated at all.

“I was definitely comfortable,” Henning said. “I know what I can do. Being one of the younger guys, I just wanted to step up and show my talents.” Smith also made sure to talk to Henning before the day was over.

“Coach Luke Butkus introduced me to Coach Smith, and he’s definitely a very cool guy,” Henning said. “He seems like he’s more of a laid-back coach, but when I met him he congratulated me on coming in third at state.”

At the moment, Henning holds no scholarship offers, but that is most certainly bound to change. Illinois is the first school to show interest in the budding prospect, which could be extremely beneficial down the road.

“I’m looking for a place where I’m comfortable and it feels like home,” Henning said. “And I fit the system well and overall just a good place where I could spend four years at.”

Illinois left a very good first impression on Henning, but his recruitment has the ability to explode in the immediate future.

“Right now, Illinois is definitely the frontrunner,” Henning said. “My sister is actually attending the U of I; she’ll be a freshman this upcoming fall. So to join her there would be great.”

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