(“Henne For Your Thoughts” is an 8-part series which chronicles and details the life and philosophies of NFL quarterback and visionary, Chad Henne. If you missed them, check out PART 1, PART 2, and PART 3)
“If you’re horny… let’s do it… ride it… my pony. My saddle’s… waiting… come and… jump on it…”
The enticing words of Ginuwine’s “My Pony” jump off of the speakers that surround Chad Henne in his 2012 Mercedes Benz ML550. With the windows down and the driver’s seat slightly reclined, Henne moves with the music in a subtle way. His imposing frame stays motionless, but his jaw thrusts forward, matching the low-end thump of the track’s electronic percussion.
“I always liked this song,” Henne says, turning the volume down so that his tempered delivery can be heard without difficulty. “I wonder what Ginuwine is up to right now. I wonder where he’s at…”
Where Henne is at is the parking lot of St. John’s Town Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Fresh off of a well-attended autograph session that went far past the originally allotted two hours, he stares into the distance in a manner that suggests reflection. As the top dog of the most recent round of NFL free agency, one would assume that the weight of the upcoming season’s expectations would drive down with a persistent force upon the broad shoulders of the ex-Wolverine. Henne, however, shows no sign of that burden and, instead, can only talk about the day’s events.
“Maurice (Jones-Drew) didn’t even get to appear. I kept looking at him waiting back there, like, ‘Dude, I’m sorry.’ They just kept coming, though.”
Henne speaks the truth. Thousands of rabid Jaguars fans descended upon the scene with a seemingly insatiable lust for “all things Chad.” After a brief opening session with ex-Jag Tony Boselli, Henne took the stage and was greeted with an enthusiastic roar. The fever pitch continued, as men, women, and children alike relentlessly pressed for a signature from the modern-day legend. Things even got a little weird…
“A woman had me sign her back,” Henne laughs. “That was a first. She told me she was going to get it permanently tattooed. When I told her that probably wasn’t the best idea, she almost looked like somebody had died. I called a quick audible and told her that I was joking, and to go ahead and get that tattoo. She bought it. I’d feel bad if I thought the girl had a lot going for her, but that clearly wasn’t the case. That’s just me being honest.”
Honesty has always been a staple of Henne’s approach. When the Miami Dolphins secretly approached him a day after Super Bowl XLVI and offered him an unprecedented deal (said to be a long-term contract with a yearly payout well into the 8-digit range), Henne questioned the sense of the offer. His reservation had to do with the money – or lack thereof – that would be available to ink players that would comprise his supporting cast. He knew he couldn’t do it alone.
“At the end of the day, I’m one man. Nobody on this planet gets anywhere without assistance. I was completely perplexed by the idea of assembling a car with a fucking incredible engine, but no wheels… if you get what I mean.”
The Dolphins withdrew the offer shortly after Henne expressed his concern, and the team later went on to draft Ryan Tannehill in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft… seemingly as the heir to the throne. To his credit, Henne wishes Tannehill nothing but the best.”
“I’ve known Ryan since he was 16 years-old, when he came to the ‘Chad Henne Summer Camp for Quarterbacks of the Future and Beyond.’ I worked with him on his attitude and his mechanics, mostly. When he to my camp, he was throwing the ball completely wrong. He was pushing it from up high, like he was trying out for shot put or something. He got laughed at for that entire first day…”
“… but by the end of that two weeks, he had calls from every S.E.C. school and pro scouts showing up to watch.”
The selection of Tannehill suggested that the young man had answered at least some of the questions that been asked about him throughout the years, which delighted Henne. In a way, it was symbolic, as Henne had been faced with his own set of questions just months earlier…
Miami is known for its image. Hot days. Hotter nights. Speed and sex. Fortune and fame. The area is loaded with residents whose names are routinely displayed on the covers of every weekly magazine you can imagine, and it regularly hosts the rest of the names who think of it as the “home away from home.” With the support of his wife, Brittany, Chad Henne had recently decided to purchase a bold-yet-charming beach-front condominium. He knew he had to be close to where he worked, and his idea was to keep a low profile in a place that was the antithesis of that very notion.
“That didn’t work out so well,” Henne says, shaking his head. “That first week… man…”
Henne was immediately besieged. Local celebrities clamored for his attention. On his first night as a “local,” he was invited to Club Space in downtown Miami by former Miami Heat center-turned-DJ, Rony Seikaly. What was supposed to be a relaxing-yet-lively evening turned into a surreal scene, as Henne found himself behind the turntables, spinning records in front of a ravenous group.
“It was wild. I’d never done anything like that in my life. I just got up there and it was natural, I guess.”
“Natural” doesn’t even begin to describe that night. A capacity crowd rocked well into the next day, as Henne eclipsed Danny Tenaglia’s club-record, 20-hour set by almost three additional hours. Seikaly’s tweet on the evening of said it all:
Two days later, on very little sleep, Henne played in an impromptu game of basketball at a local park. It just so happened that current Heat forward, Udonis Haslem, was also there. Henne made it clear that he was going to take no prisoners.
“It was all fun and games, but I told U.D. that I would take it to him if I got the chance. And I did just that.”
Henne scored all of his team’s 21 points, including a thunderous jam that sent Haslem spiraling to the ground. Onlookers described the dunk as “emasculating,” with Henne punctuating the move by shouting “MOZGOV’D!” while standing over the top of the fallen baller.
On the seventh day of his city-wide tour, Henne was in the midst of a surfing session when, during a break, he received an alarming phone call.
“It was Blaine, and he was sobbing.”
Blaine Gabbert had endured a rough rookie season. It was baptism by fire, as the young man was thrust into the spotlight without proper preparation. His call to Henne was drenched in the proverbial tears of apprehension (in addition to literal tears).
“He just kept saying, ‘I need help here. I can’t do this,’” Henne recalls. “And that’s when it hit me.”
Henne decided to help Gabbert in the best way possible: by signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It just worked. I could stay in the area, and I could take the next step. I was presented with the ultimate challenge of trying to change the image of a team mired in mediocrity. They didn’t guarantee me a starting job or anything. You know what I say to that?”
“… another day, another dollar. I think we all know what’ll happen.”
As the sun sets, the parking lot of St. John’s Town Center is now all but empty. Chad Henne takes a sip of his VitaminWater, and takes in the serenity of it all. With his hands on the steering wheel, he looks to the sky.
“It’s funny how the more things change, the more the stay the same, right?” he says. “I’m always proving myself, even when I don’t need to. That’s just the way I’m wired. I’m a workhorse, ya know? Trotting into Jacksonville and, if I have my way, trotting out with a ring.”
He turns the keys and starts up the Benz, proceeding to exit the parking lot to the awaiting streets that will take him home. Riding into the upcoming season. Saddle waiting. Come and jump on it.
– Wes Lilliman