Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Bolivar Commercial: Former Pro Reveals Success From Pain: Mound Bayou Native Kevin Henry Has Had His Share Of Success.

Former Pro Reveals Success From Pain:
Mound Bayou Native Kevin Henry Has Had His Share Of Success.
By Andy Collier
Henry was a standout football player for the John F. Kennedy Hornets in high school. From there, he went on to play college football at Mississippi State University and ended up playing football in the National Football League with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1993-2000.

Henry has written a book titled Play Hard Play Hurt about his experiences in the NFL as well as his life experiences and up bringing.

The 41-year-old was on the defensive line and helped guide the Steelers to the Super Bowl in the 1995 season. He also battled through injury after injury as he suffered through approximately 120 injuries during his career.

Henry said the book is about how to get through the pressures of life.

“It talks about playing through adversity and pain that you deal with whether it be physical or mental,” Henry said. “I was being asked to play with those physical and mental pains and being asked to play at a high level. I want the youth to read this book so that they can get inspired to not give up when things get tough.”

One of the aspects of Henry’s life that has helped him through the years is his relationship with God. Growing up, Henry grew up in a family that firmly believed in God. Henry, whose parents are Bishop JoNathan Henry and Gloria Henry, said they made sure he knew God and followed down the right path in life.

“The book starts off talking about my early years and how I grew up in a family that was geared around Christ,” Henry said, “And how the typical Southern teenager around here would be out on a Saturday night going to skate parties or parties in general when my brother and I were forced to be in the church which kept us out of a lot of trouble kids typically get into.

“I didn’t see it back then, but I have a greater appreciation for how my mother and father raised me,” Henry said. “I didn’t get into a lot of trouble, and it allowed me to be able to use my upbringing later on in life. Now, I can raise my kids to be thankful and appreciative of whatever they get.”

Henry also had a good experience going to school and playing high school football at John F. Kennedy.

“I was very fortunate,” Henry said. “I had the good tutelage of the late, great Prentice James and also Leroy Henderson. Playing under those mentors really helped me out because they were more than just coaches. They were fathers away from home. A lot of my previous teammates didn’t have fathers so having a father figure on the field really helped us out. It was great leadership to play under.”

Another thing that Henry stresses in his book is the importance of a good education at a young age. Henry said having good grades is more important now than ever.

“I want the youth to realize how important academics is,” Henry said. “I could have easily given up and gone the other way, and it could have ruined my dreams. Having an academic foundation would really be a solid foundation. It can make life a whole lot easier at reaching your ultimate goal. If you’re trying to get to the NFL, you’re going to have to have a solid academic foundation. These days, NFL teams are requiring players to really know their stuff so they’re really going to have to let the academics and athletics go hand-in-hand.”

Henry said one experience he had with academics came in trying to get into college when he had a tough time with the ACT. Henry said his transition from high school to college was a tough one.

“My first year, I was what they called a proposition 48, and it was because I didn’t pass the ACT initially,” Henry said. “I had to take the ACT five times to pass it. When I finally passed it with a 21, my ACT score was challenged. The reason for that was they were wondering why did I take it the final time in Alabama. I had a really good explanation for it because I played in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game. I took the ACT that weekend.

“They asked me to take it again,” Henry continued. “On my last time which was the sixth time to take it, I had to come within three points of that 21. I didn’t make it, but I had taken the ACT six times, my God, I was tired of seeing it. But, it was good for me. It was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a time to really focus on my studies and get back into my academic realm that I needed to be in. I got bigger, faster, stronger in that one year. I grew up as a player in that one year.”

When his years at Mississippi State University were over, Henry got the call he had dreamed of which was a chance to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In their history, the Steelers have made seven Super Bowls and won six of them.

“I was like this is a great opportunity. I screamed at the top of my lungs,” Henry said. “I was running around the house jumping up and down and knocking stuff over. But until I got to the point to getting the call, I was getting a lot of false alarms which kind of made me mad because I didn’t want to tie up the phone line. When I finally got the call, I was filled with joy.”

Henry said playing in the NFL turned out to be a special time in his life.

“Reaching the NFL was a great experience because you’re there with some of the best players in the world,” Henry said. “Not only that, I had the opportunity to play for one of the greatest teams in history.”

One of Henry’s true loves is helping youth. During his career, he started the Kevin Henry Foundation to help youth all over the country. The foundation helps youth get a chance to meet and learn from NFL players. He has been working closely with his foundation ever since his playing days have come to a close.

Henry believes that getting youth to meet these players will help inspire them to succeed.

“I want kids to walk away from my foundation knowing that they can be exposed to players and people who they can see as regular human beings and not just superstars,” Henry said. “I didn’t have that when I was growing up. I think the first time I even met a pro football player, I was in my senior year in college. I felt like if I had the opportunity to meet somebody of that stature, it would have been more of an inspiration and a motivation for me to be even better as a player.”

Henry said his main goal is to continue to strengthen his relationship with God and to help youth especially in the Delta by having a camp that give kids the chance to meet and learn from NFL players.

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