Five-star class of 2018 defensive end KJ Henry will play his college football at Clemson, he announced on Wednesday. With his announcement, Henry chose to let one of his beloved assistant head coaches, Patrick Murphy, announce it with him. Murphy has had a mental disability since birth and has been a longtime fixture at West Forsyth High School for 26 years.
"He means everything," Henry said via WFMY News 2 in August. "You have those type of days -- we all have them -- where we come out here, it's early, you don't want to practice, but when you got a guy like that to put a smile on your face, he's always energetic and excited. You can't do nothing but smile, be excited to play the game of football one more day. So just for me personally, I'm glad I got to meet him and having him around is such a blessing."
Henry is the sort of defensive end prospect who could find a home in any program in the country, which is why it’s not surprising that so many of the best have offered him scholarships. The nation’s No. 3 weak-side end according to the 247Sports Composite, Henry’s got size, room to fill out, plenty of speed, and lots of skill.
The West Forsyth (N.C.) star earned an invitation to the finals of The Opening, a top Nike recruiting showcase, after a strong effort at its regional camp last spring in Charlotte. At that event, he measured in at 6’5 and 234 pounds. He turned in a typically strong effort at The Opening, going up against elite offensive tackles.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds, and he embarrassed offensive tackles with footwork and deception. Assuming Henry performs well in a college strength and conditioning program, there’s no reason he can’t dominate for years.
The country’s No. 8 overall player, Henry had a list of frontunners entering the summer — Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina — and whittled it down as the year got older. Henry has the physical attributes to contribute as a true freshman, and it’ll help that he plans to enroll early.
“Pass rusher, that’s my main title,” Henry said after his Charlotte performance. “Definitely working on my run game. I think that’s what I’m lacking in, but overall, pass rusher.”
Henry definitely has a thing. And that thing is searching for, then destroying quarterbacks. He’s a voracious pass rusher, and he’s got athleticism honed during his time as a basketball and soccer player growing up. He’s been a multi-sport athlete.
“Third down, you know, my dad always calls that ‘money downs,’ so I’m always trying to get the money,” Henry previously told SB Nation. “Just finishing plays. I see a play across the field, you know, a lot of guys wanna stop. It’s not over till the ball’s down.”
Repetition and technique are critical parts of Henry’s edge rushing. He prides himself on hitting offensive tackles with speed “over and over and over again” and eventually forcing them off balance, winning a mental game as well as a physical one.
“It’s definitely something to see when you do it correctly,” he said.
He doesn’t model his game after any player in particular, but he makes one comparison for himself that wouldn’t be such a bad outcome.
“Von Miller, I like the way he plays, his size through high school,” Henry said. “I feel like we’re very similar. But I just try and do me.”