Henig Rolling Along A Fast Track To Recovery

While other Bulldogs are running, lifting, and sweating their way into shape for the 2006 football season, Mike Henig is starting to think he is preparing for another sort of competition. "I feel like I'm training for the Tour de France," the quarterback says. "I've been riding that bike for about twenty miles every day in the training room."

It's an understandable feeling. As Henig watches his healthy teammates trudge out the door for Tuesday's hour of running in July heat, he stays behind to mount the exer-cycle and begin grinding away. Hmmm, it might help if there was a TV in sight showing the famed bicycle race so Henig could pedal with a pack. Regardless, if these exertions don't move him down any road, each turn of the wheel keeps Henig in shape for preseason practices.

Henig has only himself to blame—or as a few of those sweating teammates might say, credit—that he is spending most of July biking instead of lifting and running. The starting quarterback is rehabilitating after breaking the second toe on his left foot in June. Surgery was performed three days after the accident and Henig wears a boot to protect the foot. He told reporters Tuesday that recovery is proceeding apace.

"I just got a report from Dr. (Rusty) Linton, they're probably going to take the pin out next Wednesday. They're just waiting for some more bone to develop." Linton did the surgery to pin the three pieces together and back into the right places. Henig had thought the pin would be pulled next Friday but got good news of faster progress this afternoon. Still it will be deep into July before he is cleared for serious stress on the digit.

"Because they closed my toe up (after inserting the pin) they've got to cut that open again," Henig said. "So it will be another week after they take the pin out for the stitches. Then after that I guess I'll try to run on it."

He has to be a bit careful about references to running, of course. Teammates naturally have had their locker-room fun with their limping quarterback. "Everybody said that I was trying to get out of running!" he laughs. "But I was fine with that, I was in condition and running didn't bother me. The heat is what bothered me!"

Not so much too prevent Henig from getting in the best shape of his college life. And for the record, Henig wants to correct and clarify something. "I weigh 193," he said, "I don't know why they still list me at 175!" And in a subject of much debate among fans, the man himself states that he stands 6-1 and ½ inches. Again, for the record.

By any measure he can't wait to get back into full action again because Henig wants to build on his status as the starting State quarterback. To that end he does as much as possible to keep the arm loose and strong, without risking developing bad habits by throwing off a static foot.

"I put a chair in front of me and both my knees in the chair. My feet don't touch the ground so I'm just using my upper body. Which will help with my release and all the other stuff I do need to work on without standing on my foot and throwing off-balance."

Henig even has a regular partner. Wide receiver Lance Long broke a finger this summer and is limited himself. "He doesn't need to be out there catching balls," Henig said. So the two play toss in the locker room, which has enough space under these restricted circumstances.

"I can't throw it very far right now, but I let my wrist do it and I can still throw it pretty hard," Henig smiled.

Nobody was laughing the Saturday Henig broke that toe. He and friends were at the lakehouse near Montgomery, Ala., and somebody suggested shooting some pool in the upstairs rec room. "When you run upstairs you jump from the bottom to the third or fourth step, then you jump two more," Henig said. "Well, when I jumped I slipped and hit the back of the stairs." And he hit it barefoot. The results were ugly.

"My second toe was pointing at my pinkie toe. I told one of my friends just pop it back in place and he was like ‘I'm not touching that thing!' So I reached down and popped it back in place." It didn't hurt too badly and Henig was able to make church the next day before returning to campus. "Then Monday morning I came in and (head trainer) Paul Mock tells me I have to go to Columbus. I thought they were going to put it in a little cast, and Dr. Linton tells me I have to have surgery."

Which was the last thing anybody wanted to hear, especially State coaches. In fact… "I thought about telling Coach Croom and Coach McCorvey. But I didn't, I waited on the trainers to tell them!" Croom called and McCorvey came to see his quarterback. "But they were fine with it. Mistakes happen, the same thing happened to Omarr (Conner) two years ago when he broke his ankle right before spring practice when he was walking down steps. Sometimes those fluke things happen."

The folk most interested in Henig's daily progress reports are, obviously, his backups. With the starter pinned and penned inside Tray Rutland and Ty Evans are doing the serious throwing outdoors. Henig smiles when asked if the two redshirt frosh inquire often about his status and tell him not to hurry back.

"Oh yeah! But hey, if it had happened two years ago to Omarr I'd have been right there the same way, maybe this is my time to step up. And I want them to feel that way, I want them to put as much pressure as they can on me. That will make the team better and make me better and make them better in the future in case I get hurt and they have to go in."

There's one good reason the coaches, and Henig's teammates, are not so terribly worried about having the starting quarterback in a boot less than a month before preseason practice. Henig has shown he can come back from injury before. A serious prep injury, too. This is not a guy who will tentatively test himself; Henig will put the foot to the floorboard, so to speak.

"That's the way it's always been. When I shattered my ankle in high school as soon as I got out of my cast I was running the next day. I always thought pain heals. That's probably stupid, but the more it hurts the better it's getting. The coaches don't want to hear that! But I'm going to everything I can to get out there as quick as I can."

Until then, he'll keep putting more miles (kilometers?) on the bike along the Shira Complex scenic route. Hmmm, wheeling through France sounds like a better idea all the time…

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