A more mature Henry emerging

When Travis Henry was a Frostproof, Fla. 10th-grader, he went to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game and wanted to get Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson's autograph after the game was over. He remembers asking Nickerson, but Nickerson ignored the request and just walked by. Henry was disappointed and angry.

"I've always wanted to say something to him," Henry says. "He motivated me. He played for Jacksonville and we played them my rookie year in 2001, so I wanted to tell him that. But I never got the chance. I thought I might be able to say something last year because he played for Green Bay, but he wasn't on the field a lot."

At the very least, Henry was hoping to dole out some punishment to the 16-year veteran linebacker in the way of a hit, using his powerful legs to bowl him over.

Instead, he'll have to settle for the memory.

The story illustrates how Henry is growing in his third NFL season. He is well aware of a pro athlete's public responsibilities. He's also showing signs of becoming a young leader in the Bills' locker room. Yes, the soft-spoken, shy Henry is maturing in front of us. Making his first Pro Bowl might have something to do with that.

"It was great kicking back with players like Jerry Rice and Zach Thomas," Henry says. "I knew a lot of guys there. Everybody was down to earth."

Henry also had a bunch of Bills around him. It was well known that Drew Bledsoe brought along the Bills' offensive line to Hawaii, but it wasn't disclosed that Eric Moulds paid for the Bills receivers to come with him. Henry says it was good for everyone to see what it was like to be among the NFL elite and that's firing him up this off-season.

"I'm working out at the facility everyday and there are a bunch of guys there," he says. "I'm trying to get a lot of the offensive linemen to come up here early (before the late March voluntary off-season workouts begin) and I'm telling them that we got to build chemistry now."

Henry says he's also using his off-season to relax. In Hawaii, he tried out jet-skiing and parasailing. In frosty Buffalo, he'll have to settle for far less-dangerous activities – which is good, because he's definitely going to be needed on the field in 2003.

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