When Bret Bielema became the head coach at Arkansas on Dec. 4, 2012, there were slightly more than two months to prepare for National Signing Day and make his first noticeable impact on the Razorbacks’ roster. It goes without saying that his first recruiting class was very important to the future success of the program.
So who did Bielema make his first recruiting call to as head coach of the Razorbacks? None other than junior tight end Hunter Henry, a Little Rock native.
“It was huge knowing that a coach would care enough about me to call me, and that I was the first recruit he called. It was the greatest honor and made an impression on me,” Henry said.
The perfect stage was set: a star tight end keeps his talents in his home state, much like his father, who lettered for the Razorbacks from 1988-91. But the decision was far from unanimous.
Although born in Arkansas, Henry spent most of his upbringing in Georgia. Admittedly, he said was not sold on the Razorbacks until the summer of his senior year. The clarity needed was delivered by faith.
“I felt like God moved me and gave me a peace about it, that I wanted to go to Arkansas.” He said. “It just came over me, and I knew Arkansas was the place for me.”
Henry has not turned back since. His resume is nothing short of impressive, making the Coaches All-SEC second team following his sophomore season. He has led all SEC tight ends in receptions over the past two seasons. He’s a candidate for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s best tight end, and could be on the verge of having his greatest year to date.
Not surprisingly, Henry is quickly becoming one of the most well-known tight ends in the nation. The hype is unavoidable, and well deserved. He is a versatile player who can block like an offensive lineman and run and catch like a receiver.
Bielema has coached a lot of great players, but Henry has received the highest grade from NFL scouts of any player coached by Bielema in his career. Despite all of the hype, Henry remains humble.
“I try to block out all of the attention, but I definitely see it.” Henry said. “When I go away from here I am a normal guy and I am thankful to a lot of people that allow me to be myself. I’m not whatever or whoever everyone else thinks I am, whether they think I’m the best or not. I like to think people doubt me, because they don’t know what I can do, or that I could be the best. That drives me every single day. “
Henry’s undeniable talents are on full display many Saturdays in the fall, but perhaps the most special place for him to showcase his abilities is where it all started, back home, in Little Rock.
“The atmosphere is always incredible at War Memorial Stadium.” Henry said. “I went to games in high school and experienced tailgating on the golf course, seeing things from the fans’ perspective. Now that I am in uniform, experiencing it all from the perspective of a teammate, it makes playing in my home city that much more special to me.”
No matter what venue Henry is playing in, one thing remains true: He won’t forget where he is from.
“It’s huge for me to be able to come to the University of Arkansas and carry on the Henry tradition. I take pride in wearing the Hog on my helmet and the word Razorbacks across my chest. It’s been nothing short of a privilege and honor to make plays for this team and, ultimately, the state of Arkansas.”