Vols High On Chad Henne's List

One of the more intriguing sidebars from the recently completed Elite 11 Camp in Los Angeles concerned the nation's best quarterback who wasn't there.

Chad Henne, 6-3, 215, of Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pa., is rated No. 3 at his position nationally by The Insiders, but he elected to skip the Elite 11 showcase in order to attend a team camp in his home state. When questioned about his decision Henne, said it was simply a matter of priorities.

"I think team camp is a lot more important than going to the Elite 11," said Henne. "It's not like I needed to go out there and show everybody what I have and everything so I just decided to go to team camp."

It's true that Henne's ability to hum the ball is no secret. Playing in a state that many regard as the cradle for QBs, Henne has been a starter since his freshman season. The remarkable thing about that achievement is it was also the first time he had ever played quarterback.

"I was only transferred to quarterback as a freshman," he said. "I was a running back before that. I had a lot of opportunities to run the ball on the high school level because of the experience I had growing up at running back."

A standing tailback since he was a 5 year-old, Henne made the switch to quarterback appear seamless. He led the Bulldogs to a 9-2 record and the Class 4A playoffs in the 2000 season passing for 1,832 yards and 16 touchdowns against only six interceptions.

"It was a little frightening," Henne said of the first time he stepped into the huddle of a team loaded with veterans. "I was the youngest one in there with all the seniors and I knew they wanted to win and were counting on me so there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. Definitely being in there as a freshman gives you a lot of experience and shows you how you can handle the pressure through the games, and it shows everybody how athletic you are and how well you make decisions."

One of the most memorable games that first season came in the last game of the season when West Lawn played Redding and were trailing by a big margin with a potential playoff bid on the line.

"My freshman we played Redding the second to last game of the season and we were down 26-6," he recalled. "We rallied back and won 28-26 and that was all in the second half."

As a sophomore Henne threw for over 1,400 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Last year he passed fro 2,088 yards and 23 TDs with only three INTs. He also ran for 670 yards and another six touchdowns, leading Wilson to the District finals and an 11-1 mark.

"We use the west coast offense, but we used a little option too," he said. "I'm in the shotgun most of the time."

As Henne has gained experience in the west coast system he has been given more latitude to call plays at the line of scrimmage.

"I think I'm pretty intelligent at reading defenses right now," he said. "I've progressed a lot at that because of what our coach has been teaching us about coverages. Last year I had two games where I called all the plays on the line. Usually any opportunity I see I can take it. The coach gives me that option when I feel I can pass the ball or run, he gives me the opportunity to make the call."

The athletic Henne, who runs a 4.65 and bench presses 265 pounds, also plays basketball and runs track, competing in the 100 meters, 4-by-100 as well as the shot put and javelin.

Henne has great arm strength as evidenced by his ability to launch the ball 75 yards in the air in addition to zipping the deep outs and deep ins.

"I really like the deep out or deep in," he said. "I can sit back and watch the defense spread out and once it comes open I think I can get it there in no time."

Henne throws the deep in route with so much velocity that he actually caused a compound dislocation of a teammate's finger last year.

Despite being ranked one of the nation's top 3 quarterbacks Henne doesn't need to have his helmet enlarged. He said the real measure of any quarterback is his ability to lead his team.

"I pretty much keep it inside," he said of all the preseason publicity his talent has generated. "I don't talk about it with people. I keep it inside and just try to get better every day. My teammates will always be equals."

Wilson has had it's share of high-profile athletes including the player Henne is most often compared to.

"I've been compared a lot to Kerry Collins," said Henne. "He's from our high school and he's with the Giants right now. He's a big guy and he's got good arm strength."

Henne plans to major in business with the aim of running his own company or going into finance or marketing. In keeping with his team first approach, he plans to choose a school before the start of Wilson's football season the last Friday in August. Earlier this month he announced his five finalists and will completing unofficial visits in the next 10 days.

"Right now it's Miami, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan and Penn State," he said. "I've been to Penn State and Michigan and July 31st (Thursday) I go to Miami and then probably on to Georgia and Tennessee. I'm pretty wide open right now."

Randy Sanders is recruiting Henne for the Vols and he's also received a couple of personal letters from UT head coach Phillip Fulmer. Tennessee meets Henne's criteria for early playing time.

"I think if they have a high class quarterback who's leaving and I can step in right away and compete for playing time that would be a pretty good school," he said. "I want to start three years, that's what I'm looking for right now. I'd like to be with a team that will spread the offense and give me an opportunity to throw. After I make all my visits I will make my decision."

The college Henne chooses will end up with a topnotch quarterback and a first class teammate.


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