NAPLES — As a high school player, he shied away from the spotlight while teammates like Javarris James and Brian Rolle were recognized around the country as big-time recruits. On signing day his decision to attend Wisconsin was met with little fanfare locally. But this week, try as he might, 2007 Immokalee High School graduate Aaron Henry can’t hide from the attention.
Henry is the only player with Collier County ties likely to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft. But whether he’s selected in the third round or not selected at all, Henry is handling the process with his typical brand of positivity.
“No matter where I go I’m in a win-win situation,” Henry said. “How many guys that you know are on the brink of an NFL career? So I don’t worry about projecting about where I’m going to go or anything like that. ... For me it’s going to be like Christmas.”
As the defensive back has gone through the draft process, he finds himself in a typical position: overlooked. Despite being projected by many to be a mid-range draft pick, Henry wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in February. And while a number of teams attended Henry’s pro day in March, he didn’t take any visits to team facilities during the draft process.
Henry’s close friend and former IHS teammate Brian Rolle — now of the Philadelphia Eagles — said teams are making the same mistake from their Immokalee days in underestimating Henry’s ability.
“Aaron has that desire that every coach wants in a player,” Rolle said. “His skill set is second-to-none, he can go after the ball, play man-to-man, do anything. I see him as a guy that will come in and make the team he plays for better.”
Henry spent the first three seasons of his career at Wisconsin playing cornerback before moving to safety for his senior season. ESPN draft guru Todd McShay said Henry’s versatility should help his chances of being selected this weekend.
“I think he’s versatile and you when watch him on tape he makes some plays,” McShay said. “He can come up and support the run and when you look at his body of work, his experience playing, I think he can come in and contribute right away on special teams.”
Henry’s high school coach at Immokalee, John Weber, said McShay is onto something he’s known since Henry’s sophomore year with the Indians.
“Aaron has always been the type of kid that just goes out and does his job,” Weber said. “Whatever you ask him to do, he’s going to do it well and not say anything about it. When he played for us he did so many things, offense, defense, special teams and great attitude to go with it.”
Henry credits his grandparents who raised him, Albert and Margaret Lee, for instilling a work ethic in him at a young age. When Henry left his mother’s home to move in with his grandparents at age 9, he was illiterate. In December, he graduated from Wisconsin with a business degree.
“My grandfather made sure the lights were on and the bills were paid and kept everything running on the outside,” Henry said. “But inside the house, my grandmother was in charge, she was like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in one when it came to making sure I kept my focus on school and my education.”
Rather than hold a draft party at their family home in Immokalee this weekend, Margaret Lee will instead hold a belated graduation party for Henry, who is back in Southwest Florida while he waits to learn his draft fate.
“The thing that makes me the proudest is the fact the he finished his degree,” Lee said. “However the draft goes, it doesn’t matter. He has that degree and nobody can ever take that away from him.”
Even if Henry isn’t picked, he’s likely to be scooped up as a free agent following the draft. But if for some reason teams don’t show interest, Henry isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket.
Only when talking about his life away from football does Henry shed his textbook humbleness.
“I think with my credentials and my work ethic I’m going to have success regardless,” Henry said. “A lot times guys are so focused on making the NFL, but when they don’t make it, is that the end? My mind-set has always been there’s more than one way to be millionaire, ... and even if it’s not on the football field, I plan on being a success.”
Article posted on Naples Daily News by Woody Wommack
*Good luck Aaron Henry on the NFL Draft this weekend