Before Hunter Henry began his first fall camp at the University of Arkansas in 2013, his high school coach was already confident where he would end up next. “I told everybody this kid is going to be an NFL player,” Pulaski Academy head coach Kevin Kelley says. “That’s how sure I was about him because he really does have everything.”
For four years, Kelley had firsthand seen the physical gifts the 6’5”, 255-pound Henry brought to the gridiron. He’d of course seen what was obvious to outside observers — that Henry had a rare combination of size, speed and catching ability. But also knew what wasn’t readily observable to those watching Hunter Henry’s highlight clips. His young superstar possessed an even more rare combination of humility and willingness to work hard even as the public’s praise started pouring in.
Fast forward to now, the end of Henry’s junior season, and Kelley’s prediction looks spot on. Not only has the Little Rock native developed into a first team All-American, but all season long many NFL draftniks have also rated him as the nation’s top pro prospect at his position.
Barring injury, Henry has proven he will be an NFL player. That’s essentially settled. So, let’s up the ante: I asked Kelley how confident he is, at this point, that his prized pupil will develop into an All-Pro caliber NFL player.
“You know I really think he’s one of those guys. I hate to say it, because I don’t want to put pressure on him. I don’t think this will. I think he truly is the Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski type of guy. I really think he’s that type of guy.”
That would be three-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham, three-time Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski and ten-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten we’re talking about here. These stars who define what the modern prototypical NFL tight end looks like. Interestingly, none of them went in the first round of the NFL Draft. Gronkowski went in the second round, and the other two went in the third.
Plus, none of trio played more than three years of college football.
Will Hunter Henry do the same, deciding to leave after three years or will he stay for a final season in 2016?
Kelley chimed in on that, too. For that insight and more relating to Henry, sign up for my BestOfArkansasSports.com newsletter below. I’ll send you email notifications of future posts from this site, and excerpts from my interview with Kelley. They include more about what makes Henry special and Kelley’s futile attempt to play the big man at quarterback.