MADISON, Wis. - It was about this time a season ago when Aaron Henry suffered a setback to his recovering knee that kept him out the entire 2008 season. But, after a full, and more importantly, healthy spring camp, Henry is excited to be back this fall.
Following Thursday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the redshirt sophomore. The following is a question and answer with Henry.
How did summer conditioning go for you?
Henry: Man, it was tough. I mean, it was challenging. Herb (Ben Herbert) our new strength coach, he brought something different with us. We started doing more agility and more speed work as opposed to last summer. I mean, we did run a lot last summer, but everything was like speed based and incorporating power. He really exposed us to a lot this summer. We had one morning, I think every Friday morning, at six, we got up. The workout started at six and it was up here on the field. It was a combination of push, pull, some strength stuff, I mean, it was crazy. I can't really see how he came up with that kind of stuff, but it was some real good stuff that really helped us out for this camp.
Was it more competition based too within groups? Maybe like the cornerbacks competing against each other.
Henry: Oh yes sir. He broke up every group. Every group had a wide receiver. I think DB's were competing against each other and wide receivers were competing against each other and so on and so forth. He just wanted to get us ready for fall camp meaning that we were going to be competing for jobs. So you had to compete against that DB, you had to compete against that wide out. It was some real, real good stuff and it really pushed us.
What happened if you won?
Henry: One time we just had towels. Everybody had a towel, everybody had a towel. Whoever the person was that won, he got to grab the other person's towel and swing it around so it was kind of like a respect thing. So, if you beat the person you get to like show them up. Kind of like disrespect them in a manner. So you didn't want to get your towel taken. It was kind of like getting your pride taken.
How did you knee hold up through it all?
Henry: Oh man, it was real good. It was real good. It gets sore from time to time but besides that, everything went great. Summer was great.
What's the biggest thing, is it the mental thing, is it physically there, or is it a mental hurdle getting over it?
Henry: Believe it or not, it's more mental than it is physical. I won't really say it's physical hurdles, it's just like getting back in my stance and getting back in that groove as I was in spring ball. We had some time off and everything wasn't really football oriented, so you can practice and prepare all you want for camp, but once you get out there, that's the real deal. You can polish up your technique, but once you get out there, you're not going to get game speed in summer workouts. But, I definitely think it definitely helped us during the summer.
Going back to the spring, that was the first time you were on the field in over a year. How would you assess, how do you think that went for you?
Henry: It went great. I think I did pretty decent for the most part, I just want to establish myself as a great cornerback. I'm not trying to be sub-par, I'm not trying to be good, I just want to be a really, really good cornerback. I know some things that I did in the spring that I know I have to improve on. Everyday I have a list of goals. Did I get better that day? So everyday is just like a working day for me as far as my technique as far as my eyes, as far as my keys. I mean, you are going to get beat as a cornerback, but I'm trying to eliminate that. I want to be the best cornerback that the Big 10 has ever seen, that Wisconsin has ever seen. I'm just trying to go out and get myself better every day.
You mentioned game speed a little bit ago, is that something that concerns you after a year and a half off? I mean, when you get out on the field for that first game are you worried about not being up to game speed.
Henry: Not at all, not at all. I'm not really concerned about the whole game speed thing. I just feel like I've been playing football my whole life. So, it's not really going to be a concern. I'm sure there are going to be faster guys out there and so on and so forth, but as soon as you're technique and fundamentals, I ain't never really lose that. So, I'm not really concerned about the game speed at all.
You've always been a physical corner and after going through the summer workouts where which it was a little different when Herb switched it up a little bit. Have you noticed a bit of a difference this first week? Are you more physical?
Henry: Well, you can't really tell because we are just in half-pack. I think I am, but it's kind of really hard to tell right now. Just being that we don't have full pads and we aren't really all out and just tagging people as they run. So, it's a real hard assessment right now.
Are you excited for tomorrow and full pads?
Henry: Yes sir I am. I am very excited for tomorrow.
It's been a long time coming. It must just be a good time for you to get back out there.
Henry: Oh definitely man. I mean, it's a blessing. The other day I went out there and I wasn't as loud as I usually am. Coach Dave Doeren walked over to me and he was just like 'Man, we need you to get going.' He reminded me of the feeling I had when I couldn't play. Like, he really, really shed some light on me as far as helping me pick up my tempo for the rest of practice. I mean, those kind of things don't really come back to mind for me. When somebody says something like that, it just, remember where you were when you were off the field. I just really want to play every play like it's my last.
How would you describe that feeling knowing you aren't able to get out there and help the guys to somebody that would ask you that question?
Henry: It's kind of like saving a friend. You see somebody drowning and you know they're drowning and you know they need help and you physically can't get out there to them. So, you got to call for help. You want to save them yourself, but you got to call for help. As bad as I wanted to get back out there last year and help my team, I couldn't do it. It had to be other guys that stepped up. It's a give and take situation. I learned a lot from it. I learned a lot from it.
Let's talk about this year. You guys have a lot of depth. That's got to be exciting.
Henry: Oh yes sir. Plenty of depth. Anytime you have depth I think it's very good on our end being that a player can go down at any given time. Football is just a physical sport and being that we have depth I think that is going to help us in the long run.
Do you notice other guys looking up to you when you get back on the field since you are established after your freshman year?
Henry: I really don't know. I think so a little bit but I think they are trying to pick their own way. I guess I try to be what Allen Langford was to me. He really helped me in the film room, really helped me padding my technique. Even though it's not always there, he really looked after me if I had any questions or concerns. So I'm just trying to shed the light I have on the younger guys whether it's Dezmen Southward or Devin Smith or Marcus Cromartie, [db]Antonio Fenelus. I'm just trying to make it easier for them.
For summer camp, did you add any weight or anything?
Henry: No, I'm at the same weight I was in the spring. 194.
Is that where you want to play at?
Henry: I would like to play at 190, 189, anywhere in between there. I think with this fall camp I think I will definitely shed a few pounds.
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