The Wolverine

March 2020 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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2020 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE slew of other traditional college foot- ball powers. It was actually Gattis that sold Henning on the vision of the new offensive system and was pivotal in securing his verbal pledge. The versatile weapon felt comfortable around U-M's offensive coordinator and believes he can grow under the coach's guidance. "Ever since he got the job, he made me a priority," Henning said. "We've built a really great relationship over the past several months. He's a great guy. I can talk to him about anything. That was one of the biggest draws for Michigan. I love the passion he has. "When I went into my visit, and we sat down, you could see the pas- sion he has for coaching. He loves the game of football, and he loves his players. I know he'll make me a great player." Without Gattis, Michigan may not have been the pick. Henning's mother, Sharika Jefferson, was the first to ad- mit that Michigan wasn't always at the top of the family's short list. "Michigan wasn't an early favorite because of their offense," she said. "When the offense changed and Coach Gattis came in, A.J. started lik- ing Michigan more and more. We al- ways loved the coaching staff. When A.J. visited a few times and got to know the other recruits, he felt like those were guys he could be in the locker room with every week. "I remember the first time we vis- ited Michigan. When I left there, I said: 'I'll feel really comfortable if A.J. picks this school.' It felt like a brotherhood to me. I knew that he would be taken care of if he decided to go there." Like Jefferson mentioned, Hen- ning's decision to pick Michigan went beyond just Gattis. He felt at home in Ann Arbor. "When me and my family sat down and looked at everything, we had a checklist of everything we were look- ing for in a school," Henning said. "Michigan checked all those boxes. On my official visit, I felt like being on campus there was different from the rest of the schools. Aside from football, I felt comfortable. It was like home. "I got to interact with the students and felt comfortable around them. It was a great football fit scheme wise. Overall, it was exactly what me and my family were looking for." Henning and his family also had DID YOU KNOW? • Rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in his team's 12-0 win over Gurnee (Ill.) Warren Township in the state title contest as a senior. • Also helped his squad win a state crown as a sophomore and ran for 154 yards and two scores on 17 totes in that victory. • Ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at Nike's The Opening Regional. He also put up a 4.08-second shuttle run and a 37.3-inch vertical jump. • Competed in track and field, where he finished fourth in the Class 3A 100-me- ter dash (10.73 seconds) as a junior. • His grandfather, Quinn Richardson, played basketball in the Big Ten at Illinois from 1979-84. • Battled injuries as a sophomore, which led to a hip surgery that kept him out until week six of the 2018 season. After returning, he was still limited by other ail- ments, but finally got healthy for his storybook senior year. THEY SAID IT • Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar: "He's a warrior and a fierce com- petitor on the football field. Off the field, A.J. has accepted his accolades with great humility and team goals always remained his top priority. A.J., it's been an honor and a privilege to be your coach. We thank you and look forward to watch- ing all the even more amazing things you do in your future." • Loyola Academy head coach John Holecek, who coached against Henning: "We were actually winning the state champion- ship game [in 2017] until they decided to put him in at running back. He then had two long runs for touchdowns against us. His start/stop is exception, and his overall speed is unmatched in Illinois. … If Henning can get to 185 pounds and be durable, he'll be a great addi- tion to any team. He has that speed that every team is looking for. "He'll obviously face plenty of competition at Michi- gan, but if he can grow into a durable size, the sky is the limit for him. Henning is as dy- namic a player as I've seen in a long time." • L o n g t i m e n a - tional recruiting ana- lyst Tom Lemming: "I think he'll be more of a slot back. I've seen A.J. play a lot here in Chicago, and he has good hands and is terrific in the open f i e l d w i t h g o o d moves and blazing speed." Henning was rated among the top 136 prospects in the coun- try by all three major recruiting services. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM 28 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2020

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