HAY­DEN HENRY

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TIM COOPER HAY­DEN HENRY

step­ping from the shad­ows.

He has a name fans of the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs are fa­mil­iar with, but Lit­tle Rock’s Hay­den Henry is de­ter­mined to prove he’s also got game.

A ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to Pu­laski Acad­emy’s foot­ball suc­cess the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons, Henry has de­signs on mak­ing an im­pact at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville this fall.

“I want to learn the play­book as fast as I can,” said Henry, a 6-3, 215-pound line­backer. “Play­ing on spe­cial teams is a pos­si­bil­ity. To get a chance to play, I’ll do what­ever I have to do and work as hard as pos­si­ble. I’m go­ing to set my goals high and hope­fully I’ll be able to achieve them.”

Pu­laski Acad­emy Coach Kevin Kel­ley said Henry un­der­stands and can dis­sect a play quicker than most de­fend­ers.

“He was al­ways one step ahead,” Kel­ley said. “He un­der­stood what other teams were try­ing to do. He re­ally has a pas­sion for the game and he works at it, whether it’s putting in ex­tra work on the field or watch­ing film. Hay­den will take it to the ex­treme.”

In the past three sea­sons, Pu­laski Acad­emy has com­piled a 40-2 record and won three con­sec­u­tive Class 5A state cham­pi­onships. Dur­ing that time, Henry was in on 203 tack­les. Af­ter his se­nior sea­son — in which he had 39 solo tack­les and as­sisted on 54 more — Henry was named the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps De­fen­sive Player of the Year.

“I was very proud of that,” said Henry, who also had four in­ter­cep­tions and re­cov­ered three fum­bles as a se­nior.

Hay­den Hunter is a brother to Hunter Henry, a former Ra­zor­back stand­out at tight end and cur­rent mem­ber of the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

Hay­den said his brother’s ad­vice to him was sim­ple: “Work hard and go as fast as you can at all times.”

“He said, ‘Man, there’s a lot of tal­ented play­ers out there, but a lot of times that tal­ent doesn’t mean any­thing when they don’t work,’ ” Hay­den Henry said. “He told me to keep my head up and show every­one why you’re there.”

“Hay­den has al­ready ac­quired a sense of what the game is all about,” Kel­ley said. “A lot of play­ers will get into a sit­u­a­tion and then re­al­ize they’re over their heads. Hay­den isn’t one of those guys.”

Be­sides the Bru­ins’ three state cham­pi­onships, Henry said his most en­joy­able high school ex­pe­ri­ence was play­ing a game in Dal­las against pow­er­house High­land Park.

“Most Texas high schools are enor­mous and their stands are al­ways packed on Fri­day nights,” Hay­den said. “Go­ing to Dal­las and beat­ing a team as good as High­land Park was a very fun ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Henry ac­cepted a blue shirt of­fer from the Ra­zor­backs, which al­lows him to play in the fall and go on schol­ar­ship ei­ther on the first day of the fall se­mes­ter or in Jan­uary. He counts to­ward the 2018 re­cruit­ing class.

Be­sides Arkansas, he was heav­ily re­cruited by both the Naval and Air Force academies. Arkansas was al­ways his first choice.

“I love Fayet­teville, and I’m so happy I’ll be play­ing there,” he said. “I’ve al­ways liked the at­mos­phere of Ra­zor­back games. It’s best when the sta­dium is to­tally packed. It’s re­ally a great place to play.”

Kel­ley said fans will en­joy hav­ing an­other Henry on the ros­ter.

“Every­body knows his older brother, Hunter, was just a per­fect per­son at Arkansas and a good face for the pro­gram. Hay­den’s just like that,” Kel­ley said. “He’s a lit­tle more to him­self than Hunter. He’s a lit­tle more quiet and fo­cused and those kinds of things, but just an out­stand­ing young man with great morals and val­ues.”

Spe­cial to the Demo­crat-Gazette/ JIMMY JONES

Hay­den Henry had 39 tack­les, 54 as­sists and 4 in­ter­cep­tions last sea­son at Pu­laski Acad­emy.

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