When Trulon Henry sat idle in a penitentiary as penance for crimes of youth, he wondered if he would ever see a brighter future. But upon completing his legal obligation, he enrolled at the College Of DuPage and began to make a name for himself on the football field. He is thrilled his life has undergone a transformation.
"Definitely. That's why I say it's fun. I never thought I would come home and be two-time All-Conference, All-American honors and all this stuff. I never thought it would hit that fast. I thought I would have to work myself in slow to the game. But it was still there."
"He's made up for a lot of mistakes. He's a good guy, he just went with the wrong crowd. It's just so great, the types of things he's done to keep a clear mind, keep a clear head and just keep moving forward."
There are a number of schools showing interest in Henry.
"Illinois, Oregon State, Arizona. I actually got a call from Purdue the other day. I hadn't really thought about Purdue until they gave me a call."
A few years ago, he could never imagine such popularity.
"This is crazy. The recruiting process is fun, and it's hectic, just all over the place. But I'm thinking about coming to play in the Big 10. Being older and not a kid right out of high school, you tend to set down your goals and what you want out of this process. I want to go somewhere where the style of ball fits me. The Big 10 feels like that's me."
As a qualifier out of high school, the 6'-1", 220 pounder intends to enroll for second semester. The signing date for that is fast approaching.
"Now that it's coming down to a date, signing date is the 17th of December, I want to play in the Big 10. I have an All-American bowl in Arizona. It's supposed to be where coaches from all over the West Coast are supposed to be there. I'll play that game and then come home and probably right after that make my decision."
He has visited the Illinois campus several times, including the Fresno State game. With that familiarity and the encouragement of his brother, the Illini stand out for him.
"My brother and I have talked about it. It's hard to find a place that fits you. You go on a visit or talk to a coach, and you try to learn everything about that school and program in that one conversation. You need several visits to learn everything about a school, not just one weekend or one visit. It's hard to make a decision because wherever you sign, that's your home.
"One thing we talk about is, football is football wherever you go. We've been playing this game all our lives, so it can't be that much of a strange decision. We just have to make a decision and go with it.
"Illinois has a big advantage over everyone else. I know the ins and outs of that program, the players and the coaches. I like the coaches. They're good people. I think it's safe to say my brother wants me to come here."
Some older football players find their flexibility and speed diminish in their early 20's, the result of years of heavy weight training and physical contact. Benn was asked if Henry's body was likely to tighten up soon.
"No. I may joke with him about it, but he's been sitting on his butt when he was locked up. I know he didn't have access to weights, and he couldn't do the type of workouts he wanted to do. So he's got a lot of games, a lot of body left in him."
"I had no weights, I didn't do no lifting. So my body's still fresh. I felt no different than the younger kids. I've been around a lot of football players now, and I've learned how to take care of your body. I actually think my body is doing quite well. It's performing, and I'm so glad."
Henry plays a position the Illini need.
"I played a traditional strong safety. I would drop down in the box and cover the tight end, heavy run support. I had 97 tackles this season and led the conference in solos. I was all over the place.
"My coordinator (Patrick Callahan) did a good job and had me everywhere, so I was also back in coverage alot . This season I had four interceptions and two touchdowns. It was great. I learned a lot playing with this defensive coordinator."
Benn may be biased, but he is excited about his brother's potential.
"He's a big hitter. He can play. He could be a safety, he could be a linebacker. I would tell him to learn everything."
Has it taken him a long time to get his football legs back and learn the complexities of college football?
"I became a student of the game. I'm trying to play catch-up. I'm watching three times as much film as the average db. I'm in my coach's office most of every day trying to learn everything. So the next thing you know, I'm kind of advanced compared with everybody else on the team. I called the plays and controlled the defense.
"By becoming a student of the game and learning everything, I love it. I love to learn something new, too. I'm very into learning the game. There's always stuff you want to work on. Coming out of my breaks, as far as breaking on the ball, I probably want to work on that more. The whole db thing is mostly technique, so I always want to improve my technique."
Benn is deciding whether to return to Illinois for his senior season or turn pro. It is a big decision he must make on his own. But Henry would like nothing better than to play a season with his younger sibling.
"It would be an opportunity we've never had before to be on the same team at the same time. I don't know what he's gonna do, and to be honest right now I don't think he knows what he's gonna do. He has to make a big decision, and I have to make a big decision as to where I want to go to school."
Even though the Washington, D.C. native is older, he has always looked up to Benn. He says ever since he was born, he knew Benn was special.
"You always know when a star is born. It was kind of destined for him to just be great. You didn't know if it was football or what he was gonna be great at, but you could just tell he was gonna be a success. He's a better human being than athlete."
Perhaps Henry will never be a first round NFL draft pick like his brother. But he is making a name for himself. After several years of incarceration, a couple years of glory on a college football field sound pretty good to him.