Divine Intervention

A big believer in things happening for a reason, major knee surgery and rehabilitation did not stop sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry from having a big influence on Wisconsin's spring practices, as players learn as much from him as he did about himself.

MADISON - There were many memorable dates in Aaron Henry's freshman season that he will surely never forget.

September 1, 2007 – Intercepts his first collegiate pass in first collegiate game in a victory over Washington State.

September 22, 2007 – In his first game under the lights at Camp Randall, Henry registers 2.5 Hawkeye sacks.

November 15, 2007 – Made career-high six tackles and got to carry the axe for the first time.

December 9, 2007 – Ruptured his ACL during a non-contact drill at the end of practice, causing him to miss his first bowl game.

Obviously not all the moments were happy ones.

But Henry doesn't see it that way. Strung up in a hospital bed 12 days later after a successful surgery, Henry, a very religious man deep in his faith, felt that this injury was part of his purpose in life – to understand himself and the game of football better and to help the younger players get better.

A constant presence at spring practice yelling, helping and coaching each and every day, Henry tells Badger Nation that, although this was an extremely beneficial spring, he is ready to get back on the field.

BN: We never really got a chance to hear about the injury and what exactly happen. All we heard was a non-contact injury during bowl preparation.

Aaron Henry: We were in teams. We had 22 periods and we were on like the 21st period, so one more period until practice was over. We were in Cover Three and Paul Hubbard ran a little square-in route. We had an all-out blitz in the middle of the field and TD (Tyler Donovan) dumped the ball to him. He kind of ran, everyone collided on him and I jumped over the pile of people.

I didn't get touched and I jumped over the pile – I probably would have been better off landing in the pile – I buckled my knee and I just lay there praying, hoping that it wasn't what I thought it was. But that's what it was.

BN: How did the whole process go? Did you feel a lot of pain when it happened or was everything a blur?

Aaron Henry: When it happened, it felt like I could continue and get up and go. I felt something pop, so I knew something was wrong and I started holding my knee. I felt like it was fine for the moment. I don't know if it was adrenaline or what but I felt that I could keep going. I lay down there for a minute and when I got up, I tried to touch down on it and there was some pain, so I knew something was wrong. The trainers brought me over to the sideline and as I sat there, the knee started to swell up on me real fast. I knew something was wrong when it swelled up to that size. I felt it popped and I never experienced something like that.

BN: You've never had a major injury. Did you ever look back and try to figure out why this happen but knowing that you're a man of faith, did you think this happened for a reason?

Aaron Henry: Not at all. I didn't question God at all. The great thing about it was, like two weeks before it happened, I thought to myself what would happen if I got hurt and how would I respond to it. I was asking myself that about how I would react. Sure enough, a few weeks later I got hurt and it was like He was showing me a sign. I think it's a blessing because it gives other guys a chance to step up and make plays. Not only that, it helps me better myself, strengthen my faith and look at the game from a different aspect.

When you are on the field going full speed, you don't really take time to look at the game from a more mental aspect. When I come back, I think that I am going to be a better overall football player.

BN: How are you doing now?

Aaron Henry: I am doing fine. I started jogging a couple weeks ago. It feels different. It's different. It's kind of like when you were a baby and you start walking, you stumble. When I started jogging, I wanted to take off full speed but you really can't. It felt like my knee was a little gimpy. It has started to come along and everything has come along really well. I am doing more weight-bearing stuff so it is coming.

BN: Have you felt any pain in anything you've done rehabilitating that when you do it, you feel that sharp pain?

Aaron Henry: I do get a little pain but it's not really during the workouts. It's more so when I am getting stretched and bending for flexing. I know that's more mental than anything, so if I can get myself mentally prepared I'll be fine. As far as the workouts, the trainers got me on a workout regiment that has gone very well.

BN: Do you have a timetable set for yourself when you want to be back and working out with the team?

Aaron Henry: Well, when we start summer ball June 9, I am supposed to be doing most of the drills and lateral work and running. By the time the season starts, I plan on playing.

BN: Is that going to be special for you when you get back or is that going to be a situation when you don't look back?

Aaron Henry: I think it's going to be pretty special because it's an obstacle. We all face obstacles in our life that we have to overcome and this was a real big one, especially to a cornerback or something that is always on the move compared to a down lineman. I think it's going to be special. It's like when I first started jogging. If you would have told me that when I was lying in the hospital bed, I was in a whole different world and it was horrible feeling. I probably wouldn't have believed you because I was so out of it.

BN: Did redshirting this upcoming season ever come into mind?

Aaron Henry: It did. It did. Now that I am thinking about it, it did come into my mind but that would be worse case scenario. I don't plan on redshirting at all but it did come into mind.

BN: You see a lot of guys with clipboards and some people take that approach. Some just like to sit back and watch. You are up in everyone's face, clapping, cheering and encouraging everyone on. What's it like to be Coach Henry and helping the younger players, teaching them and telling them that ‘Hey, I was here last year and I know what you are going through?'"

Aaron Henry: It's a pretty good feeling. A lot of those guys are willing to learn. It's a whole lot easier, especially since I am the same age or the same year as most of them. Sometimes, you have guys are willing to learn and these guys, even though a year of experience helps, don't look at me like I am the same age as them or that I am trying to change them even though they are older than me. It's really working for them and me.

BN: Which one of the young cornerbacks have you been really impressed with so far?

Aaron Henry: Probably my roommate Mario (Goins) because we have such a tight bond. We are always together and he's coming along real well. I think he's going to be a great cornerback here. He's a real, real smart cornerback. I could probably tell him something once and let him know and next time, he'll have it. He's on point with it.

BN: You've also been a recruiting host in addition to your new coaching responsibilities. I know you hosted Antonio Fenelus. What was that like because that's something new to you too?

Aaron Henry: We went to the Nitty Gritty and hung out most of the time. There wasn't really anything going on in Madison. Travis (Beckum) took him a few places, as well. We just hung out, talk to him, told him I understood where he was coming from if he wanted to stay closer to home. I was in the same boat he was being from the Deep South. It's a whole lot warmer down there but it's something different. Sometimes you have to step outside the box and he really understood where I was coming from. I had success here early, so I am sure that helped. But he really understood it, took everything in and made the best decision that was for him.

BN: Have you seen him play at all or seen film of him play? How do you two compare?

Aaron Henry: I saw film of him and he's a real good player. My scouting report on him is he's legit. He's legit and real good from what I have seen. He's extremely good. I would probably say he's a tad bit smaller than I was coming here but to compare him, that's a tough one. He's good but I wouldn't call myself a slouch either. He is probably a little bit better than me coming out of high school. He's good.

BN: Is he someone, like you, that could be in the Badger Package in their first year here?

Aaron Henry: He definitely can. There's a few of those young guys coming in that are coming in that could be that guy. Antonio can definitely be that guy because he's a pretty sound guy, he can tackle, he can run to the football and can play ball.

BN: It was frustrating that you couldn't be out there this spring but what is something that you have learned about yourself being on the sideline watching? What's something you saw from a different angle that you are going to try to use next season?

Aaron Henry: It is probably just being a whole lot more vocal. When you are on the sidelines or in the game, it's best to communicate with the guys around you, let them know the call or get them the call. I think that everything else will pretty much come like the technique. Being more vocal and having good technique pay off and if you can let the people around you know, that will really help you and the defensive backs.

BN: Coming off your first knee injury and hopefully your last, are you worried that you are going to miss a step, being a step slower or not be the player that you were?

Aaron Henry: Not at all. I am going to be the same Aaron Henry that you saw last year. When I told you that I am a man of God, I am leaving it all in his hands. I am not worried about any injury, I am just going to come back and play. God forbid something like this with happen again, but I am just going to play. I am not saying that I will never think about the knee when I first get out there but I won't think about it once I get rollin. I am going to play the same way and doing what I've been doing.

BN: A lot of people look at this defense and talk about the strength in the linebackers, the experience up front but point out the two guys in the secondary are coming off ACL injuries. How do you tell people that you guys aren't the question mark of the defense and you guys aren't going to miss a beat?

Aaron Henry: People are always going to have a perception but we have to go out and show them. It is easy to talk about it. We can sit here and say about how good we going to be and how good we want to be. We have to go out there and perform. They are only to get that out of us by seeing it. If they're talking like that and we go out and don't put on a show for them, they have a reason to talk like that. That goes with proving people wrong and that we definitely have to go out there and prove a point to people. I can't sit here and tell you that we are going to be good or do this or that. We just have to go out there and play football and do what we do.


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