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Four-star tight end Hunter Henry of Little Rock (Ark.) Pulaski Academy has heard the whispers all fall.
Henry, an Arkansas commit, has listened as people badmouthed the Razorbacks following their loss to Louisiana-Monroe in overtime. He heard the uproar and complaints about the lack of heart Arkansas showed during a 52-0 loss to Alabama.
It hasn't been an easy time to be an Arkansas commit following coaching changes and a dreadful 1-4 start for a team that came in with such high expectations. But Henry is still all about the Razorbacks.
|Hunter Henry is committed to Arkansas but was impressed by his visit to Alabama.|
"It was definitely tough. I'm not going to lie about that after Bobby Petrino was fired," Henry said. "But we've played two SEC teams the last two weeks [Auburn and Kentucky] and won. Things are turning around. That swagger is starting to come back."
Henry would like to help Arkansas get some of that swagger back. Being the highest-ranked commit and the only one in the ESPN 300, Henry knows there is some pressure that comes along with that. But he's been fine with it so far.
It has its perks, too. Henry, who is No. 103 in the ESPN 150, accepted his jersey for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour on Friday. The game is Jan. 4 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I was so shocked to receive this honor," Henry said. "At first, I didn't even realize it was really happening. It didn't hit me until later that I'll be playing in a game that I've grown up watching on TV. It's amazing, and I'm humbled by the selection."
Henry might be humbled, but it's not like he didn't earn it. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder is the nation's No. 2 tight end and is averaging more than 110 yards per game this season.
As much as football is helping get Henry where he wants to go, he might owe a debt of gratitude to basketball. He began as a left tackle his freshman season, but when his football coaches saw how he could move on the basketball court, they got an idea about where Henry should play in the future for football.
"They didn't know I could run like that," Henry said. "I put in a lot of work that offseason. I had to learn the whole offense again. I had to learn how to run routes. It wasn't easy at first, but I know it has paid off."
In the back of his mind, he always had that dream of playing for Arkansas. He said following his sophomore season, he started to realize that dream could become a reality if he kept working hard.
His father played for the Razorbacks, and when he got the Arkansas offer, it was tough for Henry to control his excitement.
But he didn't just want to commit to follow in his father's footsteps. It had to feel like home to him, too. Luckily for Razorbacks fans, Fayetteville is home for Henry.
"I've looked around at other places, and I've felt this is where I fit best," Henry said. "They have a strong history of using tight ends in the past."
Henry won't close the door 100 percent shut. He said he is still contemplating visits to Alabama, Georgia and Stanford because of the uncertainty of the Arkansas coaching position. He admits it's important for the Razorbacks to find a quality head coach, but he also said it's not the only thing.
"I can't act like it doesn't matter because I need to know how they're going to use me and where I'll fit in," Henry said. "But there is more to it than coaching. It's about the program. And I love the Arkansas program."