NC State recently hired Rutgers assistant Aaron Henry to fill its vacant safety position. Henry is a former Wisconsin standout, earning All-Big Ten honors after recording 67 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defended as a senior. He served as a graduate assistant under Bret Bielema at Arkansas before landing his first full time coaching job for Chris Ash at Rutgers. Henry’s arrival in Raleigh is a reunion with Dave Doeren, the coach that recruited him to Wisconsin.
Henry spoke with Pack Pride recently about his decision to make the move to NC State as well as his relationship with Doeren.
Did you expect to be reunited with coach Doeren so soon?
Not this early and not this fast. When he tried to hire me as the team chaplain here I want to say three years ago, so I had come back up here to see him in the summer. Obviously me and the guy are really, really close. He recruited me out of high school. We have a relationship. But I didn’t really think about it.
I just went through the process- being a coach at my former institution, kind of getting in the business. Obviously you have a relationship with all the guys you’ve kind of played under. But I had no idea and when he came I was excited. Being that I’ll be working for him that made it that much sweeter.
Being a younger coach, can you use that to relate with the current players?
I think in this college realm of things transparency is the biggest thing. Obviously I’ve been through alot and I can relay my message. I’m not too far ahead of them. At the end of the day you want to get a kid to play extremely, extremely hard. Well, how do you get them to play extremely hard? I think there’s a multitude of ways you can do that whether you’re young or old.
I just relay my message a little different. It’s similar to coach Huxtable, it’s similar to coach Barlow, it’s similar to coach Nielsen. It’s just different maybe a younger perspective but at the end of the day the objective is to get them to play hard and play really fast. So I think the overall theme of what I’m going to try to get them to do is going to be the same of what they’ve been doing but maybe a tad bit different. It’s just coming from someone a little bit younger.
I think when you’ve played with somebody and you’ve established that trust as a player and obviously Bret Bielema gave me that opportunity as a graduate assistant and Chris Ash made me a position coach, I’m beyond grateful for both of those men and that should just show you the effect college coaches can have on a young man.
At the end of the day do we want to win games? Yes, that’s the objective but anytime you can change a young man’s life for the better- those guys have single-handedly changed my life whether it was coach Doeren coaching me out of high school. Him and coach B and coach Ash offering me a scholarship- playing at Wisconsin. Coach B giving me a chance to be a graduate assistant. Chris Ash giving me a chance to be a fulltime coach and then coach Doeren giving me this opportunity to coach the safeties and have a piece of the special teams.
I am beyond blessed that it happened this way. This is a movie. This is a real life movie that I’m living. I understand the opportunity that I’ve been blessed with. I know how delicate it is. I know the sense of urgency around here. I don’t take any of those things for granted. At the end of the day the goal and objective will never change and that’s to build up young men and on top of making them really good players you want to make them assets to society when they leave here.
In the time you’ve been at State, how does it compare to the other places you been?
Every place is a little different. I’ve been fortunate enough with every guy that I’ve been with I’ve always sold the kids on the head coach. A lot of people will tell you never go to a school because of the coach. I think that’s completely false. We work in a people business and you go to places because there’s really good people there. Yes the school’s going to be what it is. But you want to go to a school of your choice because you have a good relationship with the coach and that coaching staff and if that staff leaves you see guys going to other places. But at the end of the day it’s about relationships.
I think with coach Doeren he did a great job of recruiting me because I have nine sisters and he knew every last one of their names. I don’t know if he knows them now but he knew all of them. It was very impressive. I think grandma was the main key. He could tell you grandma’s name right now but at the end of the day it’s about relationships and if you don’t have that. You talk about selling them on a school or university. I think Dave Doeren is NC State. I can sell them on Dave Doeren and our coaching staff.