MADISON, Wis. - The 2008 season was painful for cornerback Aaron Henry. After injuring his knee during bowl preparation in 2007, Henry returned to fall camp looking to build upon his freshman success. However, shortly thereafter, he suffered a setback with his knee that kept him out all of last season.
Now, after redshirting, the Florida native looks to work out the kinks and get back to the foundation he laid his first year on campus. Following the opening practice of spring ball, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Henry. The following is a question and answer with Henry:
In terms of your injury, do you feel like it is back to where you were before it happened or is it even better?
Henry: Yes sir. My knee is a whole lot stronger. I truly believe that my right knee is stronger than my left knee. I had surgery on my right knee. It feels 100 percent. I'm just ready to get back out there and roll. It feels real, real good. Like I told you guys before, it's more of mental thing as opposed to a physical (thing). The mental part is taken care of and I'm just ready to get back out there and play on it.
On the defensive side of the ball, you lose a lot of seniors from a year ago. What's the mindset of you guys as you get ready with a fairly young group?
Henry: Bend, don't break. One unit, one goal. We just want to contain everything and just get better this spring. Despite losing a lot of guys, some of the guys going off to the NFL, some of the guys just graduating due to them being seniors, we're not going to let that hold us back. This year, expect old Badger football. Rough, tough, in your face, talking smack, I mean, old school.
With Langford leaving and Mario Goins being suspended as of now, is it your position to lose as a starter?
Henry: I always try to put as much pressure on myself as I can. If it's up to me like I'm going to lose the position, everyday I come into practice whether I'm a starter, whether I'm the fourth string, I just try to go out there and dominate the position. I mean, I'm not looking at who's first on the depth chart, who's second or third, I'm just looking at it as everyday, at the end of the day, can I ask myself, 'did I get better?' Did I get better as a football player? Did I get better as a cornerback? Despite me getting better, I just want the coach to decide who should be the starting quarterback. With that being said, I just want to get better everyday this spring and hopefully I can be number one by the end of it.
Recently it has been the front seven that has been more experienced. Has that sort of been flipped this year?
Henry: Yes, sir. Most definitely. We have a lot of experience in the back end. I think right now, most of the pressure is on us because we have guys who's been back there at least two, maybe three years. The front seven has done their job throughout the years, but I guess the pressure is on us.
You guys kind of becoming the leaders of it? Yourself, Shane Carter
Henry: Oh yes sir, most definitely. We hang out with each other, we look up to each other and we just try to push each other day in and day out.
What's the biggest thing that you want to work on?
Henry: The biggest thing I have to work on, I'd have to say my eyes. A lot of people don't understand that being a defensive back, you've got to have real, real good eyes. If you have your eyes in a wrong spot at a certain time, that could be the difference from a first down or a touchdown or an interception or a touchdown. So I just want to better myself as far as my eyes and my fundamentals. Just little things, reading my three-step keys, reading my five-step keys, snapping my eyes from the quarterback to the wide receiver, once the wide receiver passes five yards. I just want to better my fundamentals. I am kind of rusty today, but in good time, it will all come back.
Jaevery McFadden mentioned the Florida guys are taking that bowl loss pretty personally being from there, are you in that camp?
Henry: Oh yes sir. I was a big Florida State fan growing up and anytime you go down there and they just, in all honesty, they put it on us. So, I really took that loss to heart. Even though I didn't play, I'm a Wisconsin Badger. Just seeing them go out there and get beat the way we got beat, it was just devastating.
You mentioned being rusty, and I don't know if you've been asked this already, but how is the knee?
Henry: Oh, the wheel is great sir. When I say rusty, I don't mean my knee is rusty, I just mean my football mechanics and just getting back out here and getting the groove and just going through all the things I've been doing.
I talked to coach Kerry Cooks and he said the thing physically he wants to see from you is a burst. Do you feel physically as good as before, or not?
Henry: Well, I think due to me adding a little more weight than I had previously- I was at 187 before I tore my ACL, now I'm at 197- so 10 pounds difference, that could mean all the world as far as bursting out of your break. So right now, I'm in the process of trying to cut down on some weight and still keeping that burst. Right now, thus far, I think I am slowly but surely catching up to myself as far as coming out of my break.
What is your goal weight?
Henry: My weight that my goal is by the time we start the season, I want to be around 190. 185, 190, 193, somewhere around there.
You were talking about your eyes, how do you go about improving your eyes?
Henry: I mean, its just something that you got to rep and become better at. As far as improving your eyes, you got to watch a lot of film. (It's) noticing tendencies and picking up on little things. The coaches always, always harp on a DB can get beat and get beat real bad because he has bad eyes. That's just something that you've got to have a mental memory about and you also got to rep it in practice. It doesn't just come after one day, it starts with repetition and with repetition, it will grow.
To sit out a whole year, it just takes some time to get that back.
Henry: Yes sir, I mean, like I said, I am a little rusty. I'm just anxious to be back out here. It's truly a blessing.
From your point of view on the sidelines when you weren't able to play, did you notice anything from that team. What was the biggest problem with the team during the losing streak?
Henry: I think we had some guys out there that wanted to win, but I don't think as far as a team goes, I don't think all of our minds were set on one unit, one goal. I think this year, we are emphasizing more on one unit, one goal. I think it's truly going to be a big accomplishment for us, once we get back out there and the season starts?
Were there team chemistry problems? Were people playing too much for themselves?
Henry: Definitely, guys (were) looking at two or three years down the road. I think this year, guys are more like team oriented and together in a sense.
You talked about putting on a little bit of weight, is that due to the new strength program that was utilized this year?
Henry: Oh, yeah. I mean our strength and conditioning coaches are amazing. The coaches, they want me to lose weight, but muscle outweighs fat any day. So our strength and conditioning coaches are doing a great job. Right now, hopefully this spring it will help me cut down on a few pounds.
How beneficial is that going to be down the road, to have like Bret Bielema says, two summers?
Henry: It's going to be great. I guess this "first summer," it was amazing. I mean, it really pushed us, it really forced us to get in there and really forced us to bust our butts. I think it's going to be real crucial going into this second summer.
Did you go anywhere for spring break?
Henry: I went home to Immokalee, Florida. I was in Fort Myers for a few days with my mom just hanging out.
The following is the audio file from the interview:
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