MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin cornerback Aaron Henry suffered a torn ACL about this time a year ago as UW was preparing for the Outback Bowl. Then, after feeling confident that he would be back for the 2008 season, the Florida native suffered a setback in the same knee. 12 games later, Henry has once again been fully cleared for practice.
Following Monday's bowl prep, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the redshirt freshman. The following is the question and answer from Monday night:
Well, at the start of bowl preparation, you were cleared to practice. How does that feel?
Henry: It feels great man. I mean, anytime you've got a chance to come out here and compete, and it's been such a long, long, long time coming, I'm truly, truly blessed. I feel so excited just to be back out here, running around, getting my feet back under me. It feels like I am starting all over again, like I'm a freshman again. I know most of the calls, but it's just getting into that mode once again so it's going to be a grind.
Did you get a good reception when you got back out there from the players?
Henry: Oh yes sir, definitely, definitely man. I mean, everybody embraced me with plenty of love. We pretty much have a brotherhood on this team and I mean, they were very, very, very happy to see me back out there and just playing and competing again.
Would you say your knee is 100 percent right now?
Henry: Yes sir, yes sir.
Are you fully confident in it?
Henry: Fully, fully confident man, fully confident. Everything is going great man. I'm truly, truly favored, it's just been a blessing. I just can't explain how excited I am just to be back out here practicing.
In fall camp when you re-injured your knee, did you know it was going to be a season long thing?
Henry: I didn't, I thought it was going to be two, three games maybe. But, sometimes, you expect things to go a certain way and God has another plan for you. I just took it and rolled with it and now I'm 100 percent.
With the bowl game back and Florida, how about that?
Henry: I know man, it's great. Anytime you play and have the chance to go back home and play, unfortunately I don't get to play two years in a row I missed both bowl games in Florida. I mean, I'm trying to make the one next year, but we got some business to handle in Florida State and so we're going to go down there and take care of business.
Was it kind of exciting to find out that you were playing Florida State though?
Henry: Oh definitely, definitely. Growing up, I was a crazy Florida State fan. I mean, I was a huge Florida State fan. The Peter Warrick's, the Warrick Dunn's, the Charlie Ward's, I mean, all those guys that went through there. I honestly thought that I was going to go to school there. I mean, just when you get a chance to go and compete against those guys, it's truly, truly great, a great feeling.
Is it going to hurt when you get down there and won't be able to play?
Henry: It is going to hurt. I was talking to coach B (Bret Bielema) about that and coach Kerry Cooks and coach Dave Doeren as well. I wanted to go back home and show them the talent that we had up here.
How do you feel like you've been able to help the team throughout this season?
Henry: I mainly try to work on a lot of the younger guys, just getting them mentally prepared for the games and stuff. A lot of the physical stuff, I mean, they already got a lot of the physical attributes, but just getting them ready physically and telling them that it may be challenging at times, but hang in there and stay in there. A lot of those guys came a long way and they're doing a heck of a job. Niles Brinkley is pretty much a veteran now. He did an amazing job this year. Him and Mario Goins coming onto the scene, I mean, they have been doing fabulous. Then Lang (Allen Langford), he holds his own. So those guys have been doing a real, real good job.
How exciting is it going into next year knowing that depth has been built throughout this season, even though you will be losing Langford?
Henry: We are really, really, really, really looking forward to it. Just the opportunity to work with those guys again, get back out here running, getting at everything at full speed and knowing that we're going to have a real, real, real good secondary next year.
You said you talked to some coaches about the bowl game, you didn't bring up playing at all?
Henry: I didn't bring up playing at all, I chose to redshirt this year, so I'm just going to stick with that. I'm going to stick with it and I'm going to tough it out.
Since I work for a recruiting Web site, I understand that you have been a great host for many recruits throughout your time here. Do you feel like you've helped out that way?
Henry: Oh yeah, of course, of course. They were actually calling me "the closer" for a while because a lot of the guys that they brought in, they actually ended up committing when I treated them or whatever. I mean I've had a great experience, I've met a ton of guys and I was telling the guys that the number one thing is you have to chose what's the best situation for you. And even if you don't come to school here, keep in touch because ultimately it's about them. If a kid can get into a school anywhere, education is the most important thing. This football thing, it may dwindle. The most important thing is you get a four-year, five-year scholarship and you go on to do something you love. Whether it's at the university of Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida State, wherever it is, I mean, they're in a win-win situation.
How does it make you feel when you see, or hear of them committing after they spend a weekend with you and after you read the great comments that they have to say about you?
Henry: I mean, I just try to build into them the way that I was raised. My grandmother, she did a tremendous, tremendous job. I try to instill some of those characteristics in them and most of the kids they put me with, have those characteristics already. So, it becomes a pretty easy, easy job when those kids come up here for a weekend and I feel like I've known them for longer than just that weekend.
Finally, when you take a peak outside at the weather today
Henry: Oh my God, ridiculous. (Madison was in the midst of a 8-12 inch snowfall at the time of the interview)
You never get sick of going to Florida when you see that stuff coming down like it is.
Henry: Never get sick of going back to Florida. Never get sick of going back to Florida. That weather is ridiculous.
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