Jason Hensley is a University of Kansas commit to the Class of 2011, and he was eager to take in the Jayhawks' contest with New Mexico State that evening. And though he'd heard great things about the KU game day atmosphere, the scene that greeted them a few hours before kickoff still managed to surprise him.
"I had heard that game day up there was unbelievable, and when I got up there I was just shocked," Hensley said. "There were tents everywhere, and people walking around the whole town. I didn't have any expectations, but I was hoping it would be like it was."
Saturday wasn't the big linebacker's first trip to the KU campus. In fact, Hensley committed to Head Coach Turner Gill in person, while on an unofficial visit to Lawrence with his parents in late July.
But this was his first opportunity to get a look at the Jayhawks in action and take in the atmosphere during game. It didn't disappoint.
"Knowing that I would be wearing that jersey next year, there's a sense of pride," Hensley said. "Knowing that I will be up there next year getting to play on the field."
The day's agenda was simple and informal. The Kansas coaches met Hensley and other recruits in attendance, such as fellow commit Dylan Admire, before enjoying a pre-game meal.
After taking in pre-game from the sidelines, they were escorted to their seats for the duration of the game, where even dipping temperatures and a consistent first-half rain didn't dampen Hensley's excitement.
"I didn't think it was going to be cold," he said. "That was really different and really surprising. Here in Arkansas it was 90-degrees on game day. it was different for sure."
What stood out the most about the trip, however, was the chance to speak with members of the current team and coaching staff.
"The coaches made me feel more welcome than before, and they were outstanding welcoming me the first time," said Hensley, who emphasized his commitment to Kansas. "This time all the coaches were coming around and shook my hand. (Offensive line) Coach (J.B.) Grimes and (defensive coordinator) Coach (Carl) Torbush were big on welcoming me back to my future school. Just the coaches were unbelievable."
Alma High School currently owns a 3-1 record on the season, and Hensley is chomping at the bit to get back on the field. After suffering a broken right fibula and partially-torn ligament in his ankle during May, the rehab process has been furiously underway.
Hensley is a big part of the Airedales' defense; the leading tackler in each of the past two seasons, logging more than 100 each year as both a sophomore and a junior.
Though it's been frustrating watching from the sidelines, he's now back on the practice field and could return to play as early as Friday.
"It kills me inside not being able to play," Hensley said. "Really, I just have to be the biggest cheerleader we have. If I can't play, I don't want to look like I'm depressed or anything. I don't want underclassmen to see that. I don't want the fans to see that I'm going to stop being a leader just because I can't play."