Sept. 24, 2013
As a young football player in junior high and high school, Mike Henry frequently attended Golden Gopher football games. He always loved his home state’s team, and the father of two of his best friends and teammates had season tickets. When he eventually arrived at the University of Minnesota, Henry was reunited with those two friends and teammates: Ed and Tommy Olson, both offensive linemen for the Gophers.
The three played football together at Mahtomedi High School, where the Zephyrs made it to the Prep Bowl in 2007. Henry also wrestled and played lacrosse at Mahtomedi. He always loved football best, and always wanted to come to the “U,” but spent one year at Iowa Western Community College after graduating from high school. He did not see game action at Iowa Western, but said the year there helped him anyway.
"It was a stepping stone right after high school football and then right to college,” Henry said. “Not a lot was different in the way we practiced, how we conditioned and did weightlifting. It was pretty much all similar."
When Henry fulfilled his dream of playing for the Gophers, he started out as a linebacker. After his freshman year, he switched to the H-back position. Position coach Rob Reeves and veterans like John Rabe and Eric Lair helped him make the transition.
"I played fullback/H-back in high school, but not as much as I wanted to,” Henry said. “I went both ways. I really had my heart set on linebacker, but I had to do what was best for the team, so making the switch was easy."
A fullback always has at least the potential to get the ball, but some offenses use their fullbacks more than others. With the Gophers, Henry has only touched the ball five times in his career, all receptions in the last two seasons.
"To me it's just all for the team,” he said. “I do what I can. If they want to hand the ball off to me or throw it to me in the flat, that's fine, but whatever I have to do to make the team better."
"There's only one football, and between our quarterback and our tailback in the run game, those are the guys that handle the ball the most,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “He understood pretty quickly it wasn't going to be a glamor position. It's right up there with offensive line as far as recognition. But when he has his opportunities, he does take advantage of them.”
Henry’s main role in the offense is usually blocking. His old Mahtomedi Zephyr pals, the Olson brothers of the offensive line, can relate to that. Henry has enjoyed playing with them again like old times.
"That makes it a lot easier through difficult times when practice is hard, or when you have tutoring or class it makes it a lot easier coming home to a room with Eddie and Tommy,” he said. “It's definitely nice coming back and seeing those guys."
So far this season, Henry has been one of only two seniors to start on offense for the Gophers. Although he tries to mentor the younger fullbacks/H-backs, he said that he does not consider himself any more of a leader than the other seniors on the team. But his passion for the Maroon and Gold is a form of leadership in itself, and something that any program would love to see in its student-athletes.
"It means everything,” Henry said. “I love this school. I love the program. I love the coaches. This is where I belong. I feel like it's the best match for me. I love being close to home. My family appreciates it. They're at every game, home or away. That's really important to me, and I just love it here."
Story by athletic communications assistant Justine Buerkle
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