by Derek Zipkin
After the recent tragic death of 26 year old Bengals wide reciever Chris Henry, I thought I would share my personal feelings on the troubled but promising young man.
Chris Henry was one of the few NFL players who, after the first time I saw him play, I knew he was something special.
His athleticim and raw talent were undeniable, but it was hard for me to continue to support him after his numberous off field issues, including five arrests in the span of a few seasons.
During his first stint with the Bengals it appeared that he was really two separate people, one on the field and one off the field. Players including Chad Ochocinco called him “the best teammate a guy could ask for.” However, off the field, his problems just kept stacking up. After his last arrest in 2008, the Bengals released him and I believed that I would never see or hear of Chris Henry again.
It is at this point in his life that he began to win me over. The Bengals decided to bring him back for one more chance, a decision met with ambivalence and skepiticism. With his back against the wall, it seemed that Henry had begun to turn his life around. He had become more of a family man; players credit his kids as being the catalyst to him becoming a better person. I don’t know what it was that led to his change in mentality but it was one of those things where fans could tell that he was rejuvenated.
At the time of his injury this year I would easily have called Henry the most explosive part of the Bengals offense, even more so than Chad Ochocinco. I was at the game when he broke his forearm and I remember looking to my friend and immediately saying that without Chris Henry, our team will struggle to pass the ball. What I could have not foreseen is that without the team, Chris Henry would struggle to keep his life together. I wish this had not been the case and that this incredible athlete had not been lost in the prime of his life.
Henry leaves behind three children and a fiancé wondering about how life could have been. I've been reading alot of articles about this situation and to close out my thoughts, I want to leave you with two points that really struck a chord with me. The first I actually heard on ESPN's program, "Around the Horn".
On the show, the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan noted that if this had happened to Chris 2-3 years ago, everyone outside of his family would’ve shrugged it off as just another young man who could not control his own life. What makes it so much tougher is the fact that he had recently managed to turn things around. I think there is an innate compassion and empathy that people have for these types of stories; we were all rooting for Chris to stay on the path he had just made for himself. To have that all suddenly taken away is nothing short of a tragedy.
The second article, taken from Bengals.com, drew the connection between Henry’s life and his career in the playoffs. In his only playoff game, four years ago against Pittsburgh, he had one brilliant 66-yard catch but was injured on that very play and never played another playoff game. The article mused that in remembering Chris Henry, this play seemed fitting becuase, "his entire life was a promising flash of if."
Chris Henry, may your memory be for a blessing.