Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry ranked third in the NFL with 21 pass breakups during the 2006 season. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES D. SMITH OF THE DALLAS COWBOYS
Even though Anthony Henry has arguably gone on to achieve the most athletic success of any USF alumnus, his feats haven’t fazed him one bit.
After making an immediate impact his rookie season in the NFL, Henry acts like the biggest accomplishment of his first season was simply making it onto the field.
“I remember when I was drafted to Cleveland, a couple of guys got hurt and I went it at nickel,” Henry said. “I’m glad I was able to get the job done because I was the youngest guy on the field and I knew that everyone was going to come at me.”
When he was tested as a first-year player in 2001, Henry responded by becoming the first rookie in six years to lead the league in interceptions with 10 and broke up 10 passes, despite starting only twice in 16 games.
During his rookie campaign, Henry became the first player in 12 years to record three interceptions in two different games during the same year. Despite the success, Henry quickly realized he had to put his first year behind him.
“That was a dream season for me – anyone for that matter – to come out in your first year and perform that well,” Henry said. “But you have to stay on edge; once you lose that edge, that’s when you get caught.”
Following the 2001 season, Henry returned to the USF campus to train during the offseason, a tradition he’s practiced each of his seven years in the league.
“He comes back and is the same Anthony as when he left here,” Bulls defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “He had the mind set that he was going to be a successful person and he’s probably one of the premiere corners in the NFL right now.”
Henry was one of the original 75 players on the Bulls football team in 1997 and quickly became the team’s first star.
His play has made Henry and J.R. Reed the standard for any secondary player wearing a Bulls uniform.
“I think what stands out about Anthony is that he is truly a character guy,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “As good of a player as he is, he is just as good of a person and that’s what is great about him.”
Henry is one of only three players in USF history to record 10 career interceptions, and his 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Drake in 1997 ranks as the third longest in team history.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of his collegiate career is after spending his first three seasons at free safety, Henry switched to cornerback and was successful enough to play
After graduating with a degree in communications, Henry was one of three consecutive Bulls selected in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft, along with Bill Gramatica and Kenyatta Jones.
Upon his entrance into the league, Henry was named NFL Defensive Player of the Week and became one of only seven players to record 10 or more interceptions in a season since 1985.
“He was a play-making son of a gun for us,” Burnham said. “We were a I-AA back in those days. For him to jump into that kind of competition and have the success he did is amazing.”
After four seasons with the Browns, Henry signed a lucrative contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 and has become a cornerstone to one of the top
secondarys in the NFL.
“Just to play for an elite organization like them and have a chance to go into the playoffs every year is a dream,” Henry said. “To see all the Pro Bowl players, Super Bowl championships, Hall of Fame coaches and things of that nature make this the richest tradition in football.”
Last season, the 30-year-old tied for third in the NFL with 21 passes defended, shared the team lead with two interceptions and had 81 tackles. Henry’s play earned him Pro Bowl
Although he’s never reached the interception total of his rookie season, Henry has become one of the most complete cornerbacks in the league. Sunday, when the Cowboys defeated the Miami Dolphins 37-20, Henry recorded two interceptions, helping Dallas to victory.
Like the humble player the USF coaching staff has come to remember, Henry has
sacrificed personal goals to help the Cowboys be successful as a team.
“I look forward to have a successful season, not only
personally but as a team as well,” Henry said. “The only real goal is to win the Super Bowl.”