football

Henry excited to lead Purdue in 2013

Ithasbeen995dayssinceRobHenrystartedatquarterbackforPurdue.
Andit'sbeenachallengingnearlythreeyears,too.
HenryhasovercomeatornACLandaseasonfulloffrustrationfromridingthebenchin2012,feelingasthoughhewashealthybutunderutilized.WhenDarrellHazellacceptedtheBoilermakers'headcoachingjobinJanuary,hemadeitcleartherewouldbeonequarterbackfullyhandedthereinstoleadtheprogram.
Henryhaswaited,withacalmnessandpatiencegroundedinhisfaith,forhissecondchance.
And,onSunday,Hazellofficiallygaveittohim,announcingthefifth-yearseniorwillbePurdue'sNo.1quarterback.HebeatoutredshirtfreshmanAustinApplebyandfreshmanDannyEtlingforthejob.
"Yougotasenseprobablywithinthelastweekorsothathewasclearly,inourminds,theguythatwasdoingthethingsweneededtodotomovetheoffenseconsistently,"HazellsaidSunday."Hewasclearlytheguy,butyouwantedtoletitallplayoutandseeexactlywhereitwent.Itplayedout.Hewasconsistenteverysinglepractice.Period.Hewas.Hewasveryconsistentwithhowheapproachedit,howheexecutedtheoffense,andIthinkthat'swhatprobablymakesthebiggestdifference.
"He'sgoingtobeprettyspecialthisyearbecausehe'shungry.There'ssomethingtobesaidaboutthat."
Henryearnedthejob,inpart,becauseofhisabilitytograspnewcoordinatorJohnShoop'scomplicatedsystem,itscomplexlanguageanditsvarietyofgroupings,shiftsandmotions.Henrywaspoised,rarelyallowinganymomentsofuncertaintytoshowinsidethehuddle.
ButHenryalsoshowedimprovedaccuracy-hehadthehighestcompletionpercentageoftheQBsincamp-andmorezipontheballthaninthepast.
Perhaps,though,themostimportanttraitexhibitedoverthelasttwoweekswasthewayheimpressivelybalancedhisathleticismwithhiswillingnesstobeapasserfirst,debunkingtheperceptionheisonlyarunningquarterback.
"Guysthatareasathleticandasfastasheissometimesrelytoomuchontheirfeetandnotenoughontheirbrainandtheirarmanddistributingtheball,"Shoopsaid."Ithinkhe'sreally,reallyworkedhardtofindthatbalanceof,'I'mgoingtorunwhenIhavetorun.'Buthe'sdoneareallygoodjobworkingthepocket,findingthesafespotinthepocketanddeliveringtheballasapasser."
Henryadmittedthat'sbeenthetoughestadjustmentinthisoffense,stickinginthepocketandmakingthisoffenseworkwithhisarmfirstinsteadofrelyingonhisfeet.It'sstillachallengeandsomethinghecontinuestoworkon,hesaid.
Herealizessomeseehimasarunningquarterbackbecausethat'sthesystemhe'sbeeninthroughouthiscareer,andhesimplydidwhatwasaskedofhim.Butnow…
"Havingthatperceptionofbeingaguywhocanjustruntheball,I'mreadytoshowpeoplewhatIcando,"hesaidSunday.
Fanshaven'treallygottenmuchofthatchancesofarinHenry'scareer.
Henry'slaststartwasagainstIndianaonNovember27,2010,thefinalinastringofseveninhisredshirtfreshmanseason.Thatyear,hewasrushedintothejobwhenstarterRobertMarvetorehisACLintheseason'sfourthgame.Ultimately,HenrybecamethefirstQBinschoolhistorytoleadtheteaminrushingandpassinginaseason.
Buteventhatwasn'tasmoothone.Inonlyhisthirdstart,Henry'sthrowinghandhitthehelmetofanOhioStatedefensiveplayer,badlymanglingtheindexfingeronhishand.HeactuallystartedthenextweekatIllinoisbutdidn'tlastlong.Heneverconsiderednotgoingoutthere.That'snotwhoHenryis-oreverhasbeen.
"Iknewfromthebeginningthatiftherewasanywayhecouldplay,hewould,"saidHenry'sfather,Wayne."Theharderthatyouworkforsomething,youmakeityourgoal,thentheharderitistojustgiveuponit,"saidHenry'sfather,Wayne."Ifyou'veputalotoftimeandeffortintoitthenyou'renotjustgoingtogiveuponitjustbecauseofsometypeofinjury,ifthere'sanywaypossible."
Bytheendoftheseason,Henryfinishedwithtwoofhismostproductivegames,completing16-of-26passesfor189yardsandtwotouchdownsagainstMichiganStateandthenthrowingfor252yardsandthreeTDsagainstIndiana.
Hewassettobethestarterin2011,afterMarvewasslowtorecoverfromhiskneeinjuryandCalebTerBushwascomingoffaseasonofbeingacademicallyineligible.Butthen,oneweekbeforetheopener,HenrytoretheACLinhisrightkneeduringpractice.
Butwhilefamily,teammatesandfriendsstruggledwiththeinjury,Henrywasresolved.Hestayedpositive,stayedfocusedonreturningbetterthanever.
Tohim,itwasjustanothermomenttoconquer.
"Obviouslythere'sbeensomeupsanddowns,"Henrysaidofhiscareer."Comingoutofmyredshirtfreshmanyearthinking,'I'vegotachancetoplayforseveralyearshereanddosomegoodthings.'Stayinglevel-headed(wasimportant).That'slife.
"Myfaithalwayskeepsmegrounded.Sothat'sprobablytheNo.1thing,justknowingthatgoodthingsaregoingtohappen."
Henrydidallhecouldtocomebackin2012healthy,abidingbyrehabschedulesandworkingonhisowntostrengthentheknee.
Hethoughthewasreadytogo.
Coaches,though,weren'tasconfident.Theyspokeaboutbeing"cautious"andnotrushingHenryback.
WhatthatledtowasHenrywatchingfromthebench,occasionallygettingsomequarterbacksnapsinblowouts.Until,laterintheseason,whenHenryplayedsomereceiverfortheBoilermakers.
Atthattime,henevervoicedfrustration.Heneverquestionedthedecision-making.
Now,headmitsthatitwas"definitelyrough"andhowhewishesthesituationwouldhavebeenclearaboutwhowasgoingtoplayandhowmuch.Butquickly,intrueHenryfashion,hesayshowheunderstoodthesituationthecoacheswereinandhowtherewereotherquarterbackswho'dhadexperienceandhowtheteamwascomingoffabowlappearance.
"Itiswhatitisandweacceptitandmoveon,"hesaidthissummer."Youcan'tchangeyesterday,youcanonlylookforwardtotodayandthenextone."
That'sthekindofresponseandattitudethathasimpressedHenry'steammates.
Itwasn'tjusthisaccuracyorhisabilityto"crushdefense'smorale,"perHazell,whenhedoesfinallybreakthepocketandrushforakeyfirstdownthathadHenrypoisedtobethestarter.It'salsohisexemplaryworkethic,maturityandsteadyleadershipoffthefield.
"Foreverythinghe'sovercomeininjury,someofthequarterbackthingsthathappenedinthepast,heneverchanged.Hewasthesameguyeverysingleday,"ApplebysaidSaturday,beforethedecisionwasannounced."Youneversawhimpout.Allhedidwascomeeverysingledayandbusthisbehindtobethebestplayerhecanbe,andheneverlostfaith.He'sjustbeenthebestteammatehecanpossiblybeforus.Forhimtogethisshotandforhimtocomeoutofherethestartingquarterback,ifinfactheis,I'dbesohappyforhimanddonothingbutsupporthimallseasonbecausethat'swhathe'ddoforme."
EighttimesduringaninterviewonSunday,Henrysaidhewas"excited."Onlyoncedidthatrelatetohavingthetitleofstartingquarterback.
Forhim,it'saboutbeinganexampleasamanofcharacter,forbeingsomeonewhoearnshisteammatestrustandrespect.And,hehopes,wholeadsaprogramtovictories.
"I'mreallyjustexcitedaboutthisseason,excitedabouttheoffensethatwe'regoingtorunandtheguyswe'regoingtogettheballto,"hesaid."I'mexcitedtobethestartingquarterbackbutmoreexcitedtoseewherethisyeargoesfortheteam."
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