July 30, 2014

Campbell: Henry far from his own worst critic

No matter what special things Marcus Henry might do on a football field, the Ottawa REDBLACKS rising star will never become his own worst critic or reach a point where he becomes too hard on himself.

No, not when Henry has twin brother Maurice, his former teammate in high school and college, watching every move he makes in a REDBLACKS uniform from his “armchair” back home in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Have a career game and catch 10 passes in a game like Marcus Henry did in Week Five in Hamilton and his twin just about breaks into Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me much.”

“I expect him to be great every week,” said Maurice, the 5-8 former cornerback dubbed “Little Henry” as a kid in comparison to his 6-5 brother nicknamed what else but “Big Henry.”

“I texted him before the (Hamilton) game was over and told him he had good stats . . . but that they should have won the game,” continued the little brother, officially three minutes younger than his sibling.

“He knows most of the time I’m just joking . . . at least I hope he thinks of it more as just jabs. But I do expect him to be dominating.

“Even though he had a good game (138 yards receiving) I expect him to get over 200 yards. And instead of one touchdown, I want him getting two or more. (One) is not enough . . . not for me.”

Just the same, Marcus Henry is coming off his finest game in three-plus CFL seasons after hauling down 10 Henry Burris passes, including his first TD of the year and 4th of his CFL career.

The 10 catches represent Henry’s most in a single game since his senior year as a Kansas Jayhawk.  And the REDBLACKS really believe it’s merely a sign of things to come.

With the exception of his little brother, most would see that kind of performance a coming out party, Henry’s “CFL Moment” so to speak, though Henry says he thought catching passes from Ricky Ray as a rookie was his “CFL Moment” at that time.

The REDBLACKS can only hope it’s just a sign of things to come.

Besides his height advantage on most every defender, his 225-pound body makes Henry the type of pass-catcher all teams crave for. He can extend those long arms and beat a defensive back that way. Or he can out-muscle a defender and make the play and turn it up field into an even bigger gain.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats certainly had no answers how to defend him and if the REDBLACKS can balance their attack, he’s going to be a force.

“To be honest, I really didn’t notice how many I caught,” said Henry, who had 14 balls thrown his way on the night, two he got his hands on, and another two Burris might like to have back. “It wasn’t until after the game, somebody said ‘hey you had 10 catches’ and I had to think maybe I did.

“It really comes down to just Henry trusting me and me being in the spot I am supposed to be.

“I like being that involved.”

Marcus Henry has become a force in the REDBLACKS offence, leading the club with 253 yards on 18 receptions.

The 10-reception performance gave Henry 18 on the season though four games, leaving him 6th in the league in yards receiving with 253.

Around the CFL, only five other receivers have more receptions and several have yet to have a bye week.

His 14.1 yards per catch is also right there with the league leaders and combined with the now-injured Kierrie Johnson, the pair have caught almost 50 percent of all completions by Burris and total over 50 percent of total passing yards by the REDBLACKS field general.

With numbers like that, one might think he could get his little bother off his back.

“I talk with Maurice almost every day,” chuckled Henry, “and he always nags me about the plays I should have made. He never changes.”

Back home, Maurice Henry is what they call an “access control specialist” at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Marcus Henry calls his brother a “locksmith.”

“And I don’t think Marcus knows anything about my job,” laughs little brother.

Chirps aside, the brothers have always been, and remain, best of friends, and teammates from birth.

While born in Georgia, the Henry twins came into their own athletically at Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma, where the bigger Henry earned nine athletic letters in football, basketball and track.

Sill it wasn’t until he played in an all-Oklahoma high school allstar game that he finally got an offer and when the head coach at Kansas called, Henry was on his way to Lawrence the very next day.

Typically, he didn’t see action as a freshman and saw limited action as a sophomore and junior. But he broke out in a big way as a senior with more than 1,000 yards receiving on 54 receptions; a yards per catch average of 18.8 yards and 10 touchdowns.

One of those major scores keyed the Kansas upset of the number three-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2008 Orange Bowl. Kansas has entered the game as the 8th-ranked team in the nation.

The New York Jets were certainly watching and they made Henry a sixth round pick in the 2008 draft and so there he was with an often beleaguered head coach in Rex Ryan and virtual week-to-week Jets quarterback controversy, two factors which could never have made things easy for a soft-spoken rookie.

The embattled Ryan kept the Jets on the high profile back page of the New York City tabloids while Henry’s personality is more aligned to just somewhere down in the game story.

“When I got to New York, (Mike) Tannenbaum was general manager and I am laid back guy who doesn’t say much,” said Henry. “I kinda got the feeling they wanted loud guys.

“But there was a couple of times when receivers went down and I thought I might get activated and nothing happened.”

Enough said and after two full seasons on the practice roster, Henry was released.

Next up, in 2010, he signed with the Carolina Panthers and that wasn’t a good situation as the Panthers went a NFL-worst 2-14 and fired head coach John Fox before the new management drafted Cam Newton first overall and set about cleaning house.

Henry was next spotted on a football field in Edmonton and spent the 2011, ’12 and ’13 seasons there, averaging 31 receptions as season in a backup role.

He was only too happy to land in Ottawa with a chance to be a go-to guy and his teammates are divided on what to call him.

Yes, even around the REDBLACKS, Henry is often called “Big Henry” which is remarkable of a team with Burris at quarterback.

But Burris, and many of the receivers, prefer to call the big man “Gloves” and it has nothing to do with fashion.

“You see those big mitts he’s got,” laughed Burris. “You put that ball anywhere in the vicinity of that man and he’s going to catch it.

“When Edmonton let him go and I saw we got him, I just thought great because not only is he a great receiver, but he’s a fellow Oklahoman too.

“He’s such a reliable guy and he understands what we’re trying to do.  He does it in practice and it carries right over into games.”

Now, if his little brother could just get the message.