For a roster hungry to be Big Ten award-winners and get professional football opportunities as a defensive back, Aaron Henry knows what it takes.
Henry is a former All-Big Ten defensive back and honorable mention for Freshman All-American during his Wisconsin career. Henry camped with the Oakland Raiders after 181 tackles and seven interceptions in 53 career games as a Badger.
Henry and Wisconsin won a Big Ten title and played in the Rose Bowl as a senior with Chris Ash as his defensive coordinator.
“Often times, people try to use age as a disadvantage against you but it’s an advantage for me,” said the new Rutgers assistant defensive backs coach. “I’m not too far away from the game. Guys will be able to connect with me on a personal level. It’s an amazing opportunity because I played in the Big Ten. I know what it means and what it takes to be a first-team Big Ten player. I played for coach Ash. I know what he expects.”
Henry joined the Rutgers staff after time as a graduate assistant with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Rutgers marks his first full-time coaching position but the carousel put him in a significant GA role during parts of the last two seasons.
“The last two offseasons at Arkansas, I was on the road recruiting because we lost assistants,” Henry said. “This is not foreign to me. I’ve done it. Now I just get more money for it I guess. Seriously, the transition from GA to coach, I’m excited. I have an open mind, open heart and I learn from the best in the business with coach Ash.”
Henry coached for two seasons at Arkansas, where he the former academic All-Big Ten selection earned his master’s degree.
Former Rutgers defensive coordinator Robb Smith helped Henry in a mentor’s role with the Razorbacks.
“He’s great,” Henry said on Smith’s advice for Rutgers. “He showed me some places to live. I had an awesome time in my experiences with coach Smith. He really taught me a lot. It’s ironic that he coached corners here previously and I now leave Arkansas to become the corners coach at Rutgers. He’s a very, very good coach. I learned a lot from him.”
Henry worked the phones hard during the recruiting dead period and is now on the road in search of a strong finish to the 2016 class. He visits Upper Marlboro (Md.) Wise commit Damon Hayes.
“Recruiting is always a rollercoaster,” Henry said. “At the end of the day, the only thing I’m about in recruiting is a young man accepting a scholarship that’s able to play college football and get a degree.
“Some of these young men try to make it bigger than it is and that’s cool and they should because they deserve it with their hard work. At the end of the day, whether we get a recruit or we don’t, I’m a fan of young men being able to get a free education and potentially earn an NFL opportunity. Obviously I’d like to get them to Rutgers every time, but I’m going to be respectful. I’m going to have fun with it.”
Henry is equally excited about Tuesday morning when the Rutgers roster officially returns for the spring semester and offseason winter conditioning.
“We’re going to find out who really wants to be here,” Henry said. “It’s about building and cultivating relationships. Once you do that, it makes your job as a position coach much easier. When the guys realize that you care for them beyond the football field, they’re willing to run through a wall for you.”