The Wolverine

December 2015 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 44 of 162

BY JOHN BORTON I t's tough to miss someone that's 6-3, 311 pounds, even on a nor- mal day. It's even tougher to overlook him when he's ap- proaching at a rapid pace, armed with malevolent momentum and merciless intentions. Meet Willie Earl Henry, or "Big Earl" as teammates like to call him. Or, if you're a quarterback with de- signs on remaining upright and in- tact, don't meet him. The redshirt junior defensive tackle out of Cleveland's Glenville High School finds himself coming on strong, right along with Michi- gan's football program. He was the runaway leader for the Wolverines with six sacks, among his 9.5 tackles for loss, heading into the final two games of the regular season. Amid a host of playmakers on Michigan's defensive front wall, Henry stands out as an affable team- mate away from the field and a back- field destroyer on it. "You will see the gentle giant," of- fered senior linebacker Royce Jen- kins-Stone. "But when you're on the field with Earl, you're not going to see the gentle giant. He'll definitely get after it every day." Ask teammates what Henry is do- ing differently this season — follow- ing a couple of reasonably successful years of grooming — and the answer rolls like Henry himself off a futile takedown attempt. "What hasn't he done?" Jenkins- Stone said with a laugh. "He's big- ger, he's been great stopping the run and rushing the passer. Whatever we need out of Big Earl, we'll get it. He's a big player, a big playmaker, so we call him Big Earl." Michigan's former staff called him out of Ohio four years ago, reach- ing out to a prospect the Buckeyes weren't fighting tooth and nail to keep in the home state. Now under Jim Harbaugh and holdover defen- sive assistant Greg Mattison, Henry is sharpening his teeth and prepping to nail all comers. He's impressed his head coach throughout, but never more than during Michigan's most difficult loss of the season. Henry posted a pair of sacks in the Michigan State game, and he would have drawn a far big- ger spotlight had that contest not slipped away on a one-in-a-million play at the end. "He's been terrific," Harbaugh BIG EARL Defensive Tackle Willie Henry Is Looming Large Down The Stretch

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