William Henry Brings Size and Smile To Tigers' Line
Henry became the first player at
Greenville High to sign with a Division
I program since Don Kelley
signed with Clemson over 30
Walk into Duncan Hardware on Augusta Street in Greenville and behind the counter you’ll see a smile spread quickly across William Henry’s face – it’s a familiar smile to those who know him.
“If you were to come to Greenville High School and talk to every student, you wouldn’t hear any individual say anything negative about William – that’s unusual in today’s world,” said Greenville High School head coach Larry Frost.
Henry greets every customer at Duncan Hardware, where he works part time, with the same easy smile.
A William Henry provoked isn't nearly as pleasant to be around as the young man who greets every customer at Duncan Hardware.
Just ask the Blue Ridge high defensive lineman who felt Henry's wrath during a preseason scrimmage last year.
“He almost got ejected from the Greenville Country Jamboree,” said Frost. “The other guy had his finger through his facemask. It’s the one time he tore loose and went after somebody.”
Henry remembers that night.
”I was basically not doing my job and my coach told me that I could do better,” said Henry, Greenville’s right offensive tackle. “I went out and kicked the player’s butt, and after the play he stared at me. I stared at him. I just basically kicked his butt and stayed on him until the whistle blew and he charged me and we got into a fight.”
It was the only time that Frost can remember Henry stepping out of character. Good thing for those who went up against 6-5, 290-pound Henry. He could have quickly snapped in two some 180-pounder out there trying to earn a letter jacket to impress his girlfriend.
It wasn’t that long ago, though, when it was Henry who was the one that would have been scared of being manhandled. Before he took up football in the ninth grade, he had never played any sports. He didn’t have a father at home to encourage him to take up football, which would have been the natural sport for Henry. He weighed 250 pounds by the ninth grade.
“A lot of dads start their kids early,” said Henry. “That’s how a lot of guys have a huge advantage over me. I’ve accomplished a lot having started in the ninth grade.”
Henry had the size, but years of inactivity left him out of shape. He was a 250-pound weakling, able to bench press just 85 pounds.
He went out for the JV team in the ninth grade, but he left after the first day of practice. “He told me football wasn’t going to be for him,” said Frost. “I told him, ‘You think about this. I know you’re out of shape and you’re hurting. You go home and then we’ll make a decision about this.’ He went home for one day, but came back.”
Once he came back, Henry steadily improved. He played defensive tackle for the JV team. He moved to the offensive line when he played for the varsity during his sophomore year. By then he could bench press 185 pounds. He nearly doubled that the next year.
“I walked off the field that first day of practice, not thinking I would be coming back,” said Henry. “If it weren’t for coach Frost calling me I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.”
Henry became the first player at Greenville High to sign with a Division I program since Don Kelley signed with Clemson over 30 years ago. Henry became a starter midway through his sophomore season and started getting letters from colleges immediately. He got just one from the only team he followed growing up – Florida State. That doesn’t bother him, though.
“I figure I’ll get a better chance at playing at Clemson than I would have at Florida State,” Henry said. Clemson offensive line coach Ron West said it’s likely Henry will get a good look this fall.
“He’s helping himself by coming in during summer school,” said West. “How much he plays has to do with what he learns and how he develops. We’ll have to wait and see.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill on our offensive line, especially on the second team. I might wind up with four freshmen on the second team.”
West said Henry’s size will help him only if he combines it with agility. West doesn’t want to say that Clemson’s offense will require a certain size offensive lineman. West said the only requirement is that they can move.
“We don’t want fat guys,” said West. “We want athletes. Our guys will range in all sizes. We’re not going to rule out any kid. The biggest thing we want is a kid that can move. Over the last five or ten years, the team winning the Superbowl year in and year out are winning with linemen that are very athletic. Our blocking scheme will be one where every one of our linemen will be pulling. We need the kind of athlete that can change direction.”
That suits Henry fine even though he believes his strong suit is pass blocking. “For me it was a combination of being able to overpower the people that were quicker than me and the others I was able to out-quick the others,” said Henry. “You have to understand the right placement on pass blocking. It’s like basketball – they can use all kinds of moves on you. You just have to keep your feet and be ready to move at any given moment. You know where you want them to go. You just have to use your feet and your mind as far as where you want them to go.”
Henry’s realizes he also has to get rid of his smile quicker when he walks on the football field. “Sometimes I would have a hard time getting focused,” said Henry. “Everybody has their own method. Sometimes it hits me when I hit the football field, but our entrance wasn’t that great. Sometimes it wasn’t until the end of the first quarter or the second quarter that it hit me.”
On his visit to Clemson, he realized that problem was solved. “The cheerleaders and 50 other people were at the bottom of The Hill waiting on you,” said Henry. “I wanted to suit up right then. I never thought that much about running down The Hill just watching it on TV, but now I can see how it does it for you.”
Tommy Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org