Mids' Henry is glad to toss weight around

Eastern Tech graduate puts pounds back on, moves up to starting role

College Football

October 20, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The year 2001 has been a very good one for Ralph Henry.

He has regained the weight he was forced to shed as a plebe in order to pass the physical running test for the Naval Academy football team. He is again enjoying one of his favorite pastimes, eating.

And because defensive end Michael Wagoner was suspended from the team as a disciplinary measure during the first three games, Henry received a legitimate shot to earn a starting position. He succeeded.

The graduate of Eastern Tech has beefed up to 258 pounds again and is starting at right defensive end for the winless Midshipmen, who have flashed notable improvement at stopping the opposition in the past three games. Today Navy (0-5) plays at Rutgers (1-5) at 3:30 p.m.

Football times at the academy have not always been as bountiful for Henry, formerly a key member of the 1998 Mavericks high school team that advanced to the state Class 3A championship game before losing to Friendly.

"When I first came here, Coach Woolfolk [Kirk Woolfolk, director of strength and conditioning] really put it to me," said Henry. "I was out running and running. He made me lose a good amount of weight, and I ended up at 225 pounds.

"It took me a couple months to pass that test [1 1/2 miles in 10 minutes, 30 seconds]. I wasn't used to running miles. I was used to running sprints."

Henry, from Essex, is from a family steeped in football. Cousins Courtney Brown (Cleveland) and Joe Hamilton (Tampa Bay) are in the NFL. Even his best friend from high school, Georgia Tech's Anthony Lawston, was an opponent this season. "It was weird when we played them," said Henry.

He could have attended the University of Maryland or a number of Division I-AA schools but chose Navy because it represented a challenge academically.

"I was looking at the long term," he said. "The academics were important, and I wanted to have a backup plan if the NFL didn't work out."

In the recruiting process, Navy "came in at the very last minute," said Henry. "I mean I had heard nothing from them, and then all of a sudden there they were."

"Ralph is a guy we knew all along was going to be a good player," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "He has great speed and size, and he's one of the reasons we have improved over the past couple of weeks on defense."

From a single-parent home, Henry conferred diligently with his mother Jennifer, and he decided on the academy.

"You can never plan on being an NFL player," he said. "If you are lucky enough, that's great, but you also have to think about your life ahead as well, and when I weighed all the options, a great education with a guaranteed career afterward was hard to pass up."

Henry is content now that he can indulge in food because "I can get as big as I want as long as I keep my quickness. I'd have to play tackle if I didn't have that and you can do a lot more things at end. Some plays you even drop back in coverage. I've still got room to put on some more weight."

Henry sees significant progress in the play of the Navy defense, which blanked Rice in the second half during a 21-13 defeat.

"The improvement is big time," he said. "From 70 [points allowed to Georgia Tech] to 38 to 24 to 21. A few penalties cost us here and there last week, but we're going to shut somebody out.

"You can't learn a system overnight. We've got a lot of new players. Our team is very young. We're still working out the ends and the loops."

NOTE: For Navy fans attending the game at Rutgers, plan an early arrival. Security measures include inspection of all items brought into the stadium .

Navy today

Opponent: Rutgers (1-5)

Site: Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast CN8/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 M)

Line: Even

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