September 4, 2009

Henry relied on patience during recovery

MADISON, Wis. - Twenty-one months is a long time in general. But when those 21 months are spent trying to rehab and recover from a destructive knee injury, that year and three quarters seems like it turned into five.

"It seems like forever," sophomore Aaron Henry, who is set to start his first game on Saturday since tearing his ACL in December of 2007, said. "But something I always pray for is patience. I was never really a guy of tremendous patience, but overtime I developed it."

Patience is a term that applies to many things. When you are a kid and are about to go on vacation, patience is needed in the weeks leading up to it. As a parent, as that trip draws closer, patience is needed to keep the kids in control.

One needs patience when waiting for a promotion just like one needs it when healing.

Henry, unquestionably the team's best cornerback, has leaned on his faith to help him be patient through these trying times. And now, when he takes the field Saturday afternoon, it will be the end of a long road of recovery and the start of a new chapter in his playing career.

"The past is over," Henry said. "It's done with. I'm so excited for this game on Saturday night. I wish I could put it in words for you, but it's truly, truly unexplainable."

At this time a year ago, Henry seemed like he had made it back and could potentially contribute in 2008. However, after a couple of setbacks in fall camp derailed his recovery, he decided his redshirt season was needed to regain full health in his knee.

Now, after enduring a complete spring practice schedule, and a rigorous fall camp, Henry is set to proceed with the season. And after reaching his training camp goals, he feels he is fully prepared.

"(In addition) to our season goals, I had a list of fall camp goals that I wanted to accomplish," Henry said. "One of the goals was every day, every play. Another goal was give the wide-outs hell every play. Another goal was have more interceptions than drops."

But it was one final goal that may have summed up his entire rehab trail. Henry, always a devout man of faith, knows exactly why he plays the game of football, one he loves so much.

"I think sometimes being a football player and being in that background you can kind of lose that mental focus," Henry said. "The last goal said remember why you play the game. You play it for your friends, your family, your teammates but most importantly, you play for Jesus Christ.

"So, I always have that focal point that I can look at that will always take me back to that mental state. I truly think I pretty much achieved everything. I'm not perfect, I'm still kind of rusty and haven't been in game speed in over a year and a half now. I'm just waiting for that first game to kick off."

With him back, the UW secondary will have an established leader who has already solidified his talent. He is physical at the point of attack, makes good reads when watching the quarterback and likes to make tackles.

By using the goals he had set up, he plans on leading a defense poised to give offenses a hard time and forcing more turnovers, something the team struggled with a season ago.

"I think that's going to be the key to our success," Henry said. "As far as giving the offense the ball back and whether we can create that turnover and score. There's nothing like a defensive score. If we can do that, we can put the game in our favor by lord knows how much."

But like he admitted, Henry has not seen game action since the regular season finale in 2007. It has been a long time coming for the Florida native and one that may let some nerves creep in for a little bit before the six o'clock kickoff at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday night.

But Henry would be the first to tell you that nerves are just another sign that he is back and ready to roll in 2009.

"I think I'll be a little bit nervous," Henry said. "It's easy telling you this now, but I think I'll be a little nervous going out there. But, I've been playing football my whole life.

"I just want to go out there and make plays and put my team in a position to win."

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