LOS ANGELES -- Wisconsin's defensive players met the media on Thursday at Rose Bowl headquarters, and Aaron Henry was unsurprisingly one of the most popular subjects.
The outspoken Henry is one of the most effusive players on the Badgers and in the Big Ten. When he talks, it's usually interesting and entertaining. So here are some quotes straight from the senior safety's mouth:
On his experience:
Man, it's been utterly amazing. How did I leave Florida and come to Wisconsin? I think Coach [Dave] Doeren, who was the recruiting coordinator at the time, I think he was the linebackers coach at the time, he did a tremendous job of recruiting me. It boiled down to University of Wisconsin, University of Florida. I mean, Florida came on kind of late and Coach Doeren pretty much stuck with me throughout the whole way.
He was actually -- he went down there originally to recruit my teammate and he went down there to see my teammate and he saw me one day and he asked my coach about me, and from then on he kind of followed me throughout the season. It was like four weeks in a row I had a punt return for a touchdown but I was also on defense, and even prior to him offering me, I can remember having an interception like right on the sideline where he was, and I tossed him the ball. ...
But my time at Wisconsin has been amazing. For me to be in my second year at safety and for this to be my second Rose Bowl, you kind of think, how come he didn't make the switch earlier? But I mean, I was a cornerback at heart. I felt comfortable playing cornerback. After suffering a couple of knee surgeries, Coach [Bret Bielema] B felt that I needed to move to safety. ... I knew I could play safety, but my whole life people have been trying to move me to safety because of my size. I was always bigger than the average corner.
I hated it. I didn't like Coach B for it at all, and I was upset. I can remember calling and talking to my Pop Warner football coach. It was just crazy. But to see this thing come full circle and for me to be in the position that I'm in today, man, I'm very, very thankful for the opportunity, and I'm very excited about this game.
On being known as "The Closer" as a host on recruiting trips:
My redshirt sophomore year when I messed up my knee, I sat out that whole year. What they were doing was they were bringing guys in and having me host them, and so all the guys that I dealt with, all of them that I talked to and that I hosted, all of them eventually ended up committing here. If they really, really liked the guy, they put him with me. Dezmen Southward, Conor O'Neill, Antonio Fenelus. I'm trying to think of some of the other guys that I dealt with, Russell Wilson. But every guy that I dealt with, it was pretty much, like they loved the place.
I don't know if I had anything to do with it, but I just think I did a really good job in relating them to Wisconsin and trying to keep it real with them. A lot of players, a lot of people on the outside, especially when you're being recruited, they want a player's perspective, so any time you can put it in perspective, and me coming from Florida, any time guys dealt with distance, OK, I'm right here, I'm dealing with distance. I know you can deal with it as well.
On coming to Wisconsin from Florida:
I know for me, when I set out to come to the University of Wisconsin I didn't just want to come here and play and do my time and get out. I wanted to come here and definitely make an impact. I mean, I definitely wanted to make an impact on the field but also off the field with my faith and what I stand for.
It's been a great ride of just representing the University of Wisconsin down in South Florida. Between Naples and Fort Myers I didn't have any idea of how many Wisconsin people were down there. It's ridiculous. Any time I go back home, people are constantly, constantly, oh, my gosh, we're so proud of you and this and that, and that's great to hear coming from a really, really small area and heading up to Madison and not usually being around it, whether it's the weather, whether it's the cultural background or even the football atmosphere.
So I mean, it's just been a great ride thus far being up there and enjoying my time there and the friends and relationships that I've made with people. It's been utterly amazing. I'm just looking to cap it off right this time.
On preparing for Oregon's offense:
I can remember when we first found out we were going to play them, and our first day going out to practice, man, it was probably about four weeks ago, and when we found out we were going to play them, we were trying to do the up-tempo thing. It got really, really sloppy, just for us. That wasn't something that we were used to. ... Guys were tired and rightfully so, but now, when we did that same up tempo drill yesterday, guys were flying to the ball, guys were excited, guys were -- I mean, it wasn't no slacking in guys being tired or anything like that. Everybody was getting to the football, and I think with our preparation of us doing a lot of conditioning, I think that definitely prepared us for a game like this.
On being an underdog:
According to the media we [are], but I definitely think in our locker room we definitely know what we're capable of. I think the only thing that matters at the end of the day is all those guys in the locker room with you and those coaches. If you've got any guy in that locker room that doesn't believe we're going to go out there and win, I don't want him in there. If you've got any coaches that feel that way, I don't want them in there. I guess it kind of does feel like an underdog situation, but at the end of the day we've got to go out there and play football, whether you're considered underdogs or not.
Everything I've been hearing is Oregon's speed and uniforms. The uniforms have gotten more play than we have as a whole team and unit. They do have some nice uniforms. I think they're nice. I think any time you have the ambassador for Nike, and as far as a school goes, I'm sure all of your stuff is going to be top tier and top of the line. I don't think you really can compete with those kind of things.
On seeing celebrities this year:
We saw Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose. But I think when I saw them last year and seeing Meagan Good, I was so in awe. She is a beautiful woman, but I was so in awe that I'd seen her, it was kind of overwhelming. But this year I felt like, OK, I see the celebrities, and now I hope they kind of see me.