Michigan’s Drew Henson talks about signing with the Yankees, staying in touch with his former teammates and his expectations for Rich Rodriguez in his third season (run time is 6:14; transcript below the jump).
Lost Lettermen: This is Jim Weber from LostLettermen.com and I’m joined by Michigan’s Drew Henson. Now everyone knows you were being chronicled well back into your high school days. But what was more pressure for you: being a Michigan starting quarterback, the Cowboys’ quarterback or the Yankees’ top prospect, all of which you were once?
Drew Henson: Well I think growing up you want to be a professional athlete. But that’s such a down-the-road goal that the first thing at hand is playing well in high school and getting a college scholarship and from when I was 12-13, that was the first goal. So in my own mind I built that up so much.
So the idea of being able to play for the University of Michigan was the first goal in my mind and looking back at the venue, the amount of people that watched it each week that was probably the biggest thing I was a part of.
LL: Now what do you think about the alleged Steinbrenner Conspiracy Theory; that he signed you way from Michigan to play for the Clippers and the Yankees so that Ohio State would win the next year?
DH: You know it lends itself to a great story. Knowing Mr. Steinbrenner and the way they do business, as big as an alum and fan as he may have been, the Yankees are always his No. 1 priority and all of the decisions he made on that side of it weren’t going to be affected by his or his wife’s college alumnus.
LL: Now I remember that when you were with the Clippers they said that you were always the first guy there, the last guy to leave. How tough was it for you decided to hang it up, knowing that you didn’t make it to the Yankees full time?
DH: Yeah. Retiring essentially at age 23 is one of those decisions where I got to experience professional sports and make it to the highest level and two, being one of the handful of guys that got to do that. Obviously I didn’t achieve or play as long as I would’ve liked to but just those experiences, that’s what I take from it as opposed to what I may or may not have achieved.
LL: Everyone in the Clippers organization seemed determined that you were going to ride this out as long as it took. At what point did you say, “This just isn’t working”?
DH: I think after the 2003 season, which ended up being my last one, I was still at the age where I still had options open to play football again. And it was one of those things where on a day-to-day basis, what did I want to spend the next couple of years doing. So right or wrong, in between I jumped at another challenge and if nothing else it was another great experience and one you can tell your kids about.
LL: Now people find this interesting that everyone assumed you and David Terrell and Anthony Thomas were going to have ten Pro Bowls under your belts at this time. How often do you keep in touch with those guys?
DH: I’m real close with them. We speak on a regular basis. Everyone was back last month for the Mott’s Children’s Hospital Fundraiser/Golf Outing Weekend in Ann Arbor and those guys are back among 30 or 40 others. But the three of us achieved a ton together in school and we’re all good friends and great friends now and like to get together when we can.
LL: How much do you reminisce about that 2000 offense, which many people say is the greatest offense in Michigan history?
DH: Yeah we do. Inevitably it comes up when we get together. Just being how probably the top 13-14 guys on that offense got to play in the NFL for a period of time and it was just one of those seasons of missed opportunities. We felt like we had the talent and at the end of the day, we just didn’t finish the games that we needed to, to put ourselves in that position. Yeah, there certainly was a lot of talent on that offense.
LL: Now a lot of people don’t realize that you were the original “Golden Boy.” SI called you this, now Tom Brady has taken that name over. Do you ever joke with him that he’s stolen your nickname?
DH: (chuckles) No. He’s been more deserving these days than I have so he can take care of that, but no.
LL: Last question for you. I know that a lot of the alumni are fully behind Rich Rodriguez. They expect things to turn around this season. But playing devil’s advocate, which a lot of fans are playing these days, how do you think Michigan’s going to improve and go to a bowl game when the lost their best player in Brandon Graham and possibly their second best player in Donovan Warren?
DH: Well I think you just have to trust the third year in the system. Especially since coach Rodriguez has brought in guys that more or less fit what he’s running on offense. These are 18-21-year old kids we’re talking about and the improvement in 12 months can be drastic. A lot of these guys have had a ton of experience. They had a great start and a tough finish and I think through it all, especially going into their third year all in it together, I think you have to have real optimism.
LL: And I would definitely like to add, what is going on with Lloyd Carr these days? Do you still speak with him? A lot of people joke that he’s reading Civil War novels on his front porch these days.
DH: Well if he wants to, hopefully he has the time to do that. Coach Carr has been a lifelong coach. He’s got some time to himself to travel and to enjoy some of the finer things in life. I know that he has a pretty rigorous schedule speaking and doing a lot of fundraising for the Mott’s Children Hospital and that side of it. Every time I get to town town, I can stop by his office and check in with him and he’s probably the best mentor I’ve ever had.