(“Henne For Your Thoughts” is an 8-part series which chronicles and details the life and philosophies of NFL quarterback and visionary, Chad Henne. Check out part 1 if you missed it HERE)
– By Wes Lilliman
That was the sum of the repairs needed to fix the living-room window of the Henne family home, after Chad Henne tossed a candle holder straight through the glass…
… on his 2nd birthday.
“For as long as I can remember, Chad just liked to throw things,” recalls Sheldon Henne, Chad’s father. “He would throw his food. He threw the toys we gave him. Everything.”
Chad Henne spent his earliest years in West Lawn, Pennsylvania, a former borough in Berks Country. Locals shunned glitz and glamour in favor of hard work and family values. Accordingly, the simple pleasures were encouraged – things like land development, woodworking, and sports. With that in mind, Sheldon put a small football in the hands of his son, shortly after the window-incident.
That’s when it first started to rain.
“He’d take that little football everywhere and throw it to – or at – anybody he could. I remember a couple of missionaries came to our door one day and my wife, Sue, answered. So, she’s standing there, hearing what they have to say, and I’m sittin’ on the couch, sorta watching. And here comes Chad, sneakin’ around the corner with that football. He waited for a second or two, reared back, and put a bullet right past Sue’s left ear and into the melon of one of those young fellas!”
Henne held his hands up, vertically, as if to signal “touchdown.”
“It was the funniest thing,” Sheldon says. “I felt bad ’cause that poor boy’s nose got broken, but I couldn’t help but laugh.”
It wasn’t long before young Chad ditched the small football and grabbed one of his dad’s NFL replicas. The son of a welder, Chad was gifted with unusually strong hands and needed little assistance when it came to handling the pro-sized rock. He started heading to local parks and playgrounds, inserting himself into pick-up football games with both kids his age as well as those who were much older.
By the time elementary school started up, Chad Henne had developed a bit of a reputation. Neighbor and childhood friend, Daryl T. Fogsworth, remembers Henne for his calm demeanor and wicked arm.
“Chad was always on the cool, ya know? He had all these ‘fans’ or whatever, even at that age… and he just kept it simple and kept working his game. I remember this one time in class – this was probably 2nd grade or somethin’ – the teacher’s goin’ around and asking everyone what they want to do when they grow up? She got to Chad, and Chad just held up the one hand and made a ‘throwing’ type move…”
“She goes, ‘Oh… so you want to teach sign language?’, and I go, ‘Hell no, stupid! The boy’s a QUARTERBACK!'”
Fogsworth may have been suspended from school for three days for the outburst, but he wasn’t inaccurate.
As Henne matured, so did his game. By the time junior-high rolled around, Henne was getting national attention from major universities. Legend has it that Lou Holtz once paid a surprise visit to the Henne house on an October night, only to leave before Chad ever returned home from school for the evening. As the story goes, Henne had stayed after practice and executed accuracy drills until approximately 11:30 PM, when local police finally escorted him back to his worried parents.
“He must have done that over 500 times,” said Sue Henne.
Confidence also grew within Henne’s soul. Fogsworth always looked forward to game days, and the special moment when Henne would look at him and utter a routine saying.
“He’d just look up with that sly grin and say, ‘… hey, DTF… clouds, man. Clouds.”
Clouds… because it was about to rain.
As Henne progressed and started tearing through opponents and erasing records at Wilson Senior High School, the buzz and the following grew stronger. This prompted a visit from Wilson grad and current NFL quarterback, Kerry Collins, who is still regularly asked about his first impression of Henne.
“My first thoughts?” Collins says, rhetorically. “My first thoughts [coughs] were, ‘holy sh*t – this little motherf*cker can sling it.'”
Henne met Collins after the game, and Collins presented Henne with an autographed photo and a message.
“He didn’t even ask for it, but I was like, ‘what the f*ck, I know the dude wants one – everybody does.’ But anyway, I just wrote, ‘Yo Chad, it’s Gun-KMC. See you on Sundays…’ And then I signed the f*cker.”
The prodigy’s successes would continue on to the next level, but his arm heroics were not limited to the football field. Fogsworth was with Henne on a camping trip, when Chad was put to a different kind of test.
“We’re out there on the river – me, Chad, his girl, about 3 or 4 other chicks – and Chad and I had hiked 6 miles to the crossing at the north end of the river and back down the other side. You couldn’t swim ‘cross that damn river, man – too long and too strong. Anyhow, Chad and I are directly across the river from our campsite, and we’re wavin’ at the girls and they’re yellin’ at us, even though we can’t hear ’em ’cause they was too far away. Then, Chad got real quiet, and I looked over and saw him lookin’ at the ground…”
Lying on the dirt was a wounded bird. The animal had badly injured a leg and was in a state of panic… breathing rapidly.
“One of the girls we was with was the daughter of a veterinarian and knew how to help, but she was on the other side of the river. I was freakin’ out. A few seconds go by, and then Chad looks up at me, looks across the river, and then… man… I’ll never forget it…”
Henne removed his pants, rolled the bird up tightly in one of the back pockets, and proceeded to throw it from one side of the river to the other – a distance of about 85 yards, Fogsworth estimates.
“It was the god-damned most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen. Chad has that touch, too, so the thing landed in a bush like you were dropping an egg
into a pile of feathers. The thing lived, too.”
Pantless, Henne hiked back to the campsite, silencing every one of Daryl T. Fogsworth’s bits of praise with lingering concerns for the bird’s health.
As he later found out, Henne had saved the bird. But could he save the “Wolverines?” The University of Michigan would quickly learn the answer to that question…
– Check back next week for HENNE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS – CHAPTER III: OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY…