Former NFL Towel Boy John Clayton
Henson is playing for all the right reasons
Aug. 2, 2004, 1:45AM
Henson is playing for all the right reasons
Cowboys QB comfortable with decision to leave baseball for NFL
By JOHN MCCLAIN
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
OXNARD, CALIF. - From George Steinbrenner to Jerry Jones — from the Boss to Boss Hog — Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Drew Henson must prefer to play for demanding, high-profile owners.
Henson plans to be more successful playing for Jones than he was for Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees owner who signed the former third baseman to a six-year, $17 million baseball-only contract.
"There are a lot of similarities," Henson said after the morning practice at training camp Sunday. "They probably want to win more than any owners in their leagues. They're committed to winning. They're willing to take risks and spend money. And they're both national draws."
Henson hasn't thrown a pass in a football game since 2000, his junior year at Michigan, when he started eight games and threw 18 touchdown passes and four interceptions.
When the Cowboys open the preseason at Reliant Stadium against the Texans, there's a chance Henson will make his debut against the team that drafted him. Henson said he will always be grateful that Texans general manager Charley Casserly selected him in 2003 (sixth round).
"I'd love to play in that first game," said Henson, who was acquired by Dallas for a third-round pick in 2005. "I owe a lot to their organization, especially to Mr. Casserly for going out on a limb and taking me, because I ended up with Dallas, which is where I wanted to go all along. Luckily, I got that chance."
Coach Bill Parcells says he will rotate his four quarterbacks in practice but won't play four quarterbacks in a preseason game.
Still, Parcells talks about starter Quincy Carter and backup Vinny Testaverde when he brings up the quarterback situation. He doesn't mention Henson or Tony Romo unless he's asked about them specifically.
"I don't have any expectations; I just want to see what he can do," Parcells said about Henson. "There are a lot of guys here we have to find out about."
This is the first time since 1998, when he signed to play football at Michigan and was drafted in the third round by the Yankees, that Henson has toiled in the background. No matter which sport he has played, football or baseball, he always has attracted attention because of high expectations.
"This is a chance for me to let things progress the way they're supposed to," Henson said, sweat dripping off his nose after a rigorous practice. "I have no timetable. I'm having fun playing for a great organization.
"I'm good with the terminology, and I'm comfortable with the scheme. It's just a matter of getting your body and mind working quicker. Physically, I'm 100 percent to where I was when I played in college. It's a matter of getting reps and getting used to the speed. This is more intense than minicamp. It isn't Division I football.
"Regardless of whether I'd played a game in January, it would still be an adjustment for me."
Football at heart
Henson is a serious sports junkie who missed playing football. During six seasons at third base in the Yankees' system, including a September call-up to the majors last season, Henson never lived up to the high expectations placed on him.
Last year, in his second full season with the Yankees' Class AAA affiliate at Columbus, Ohio, Henson struggled at the plate and in the field. After the Texans drafted him, returning to football became a more attractive option.
"I missed the intensity of football, the adrenaline of playing the game, from the time you wake up until the game's over," he said. "It's hard to get that in baseball because the mentality's so much different.
"Playing quarterback, you have more control over the game. When you had it like I did (at Michigan), and then it was gone, as much as I loved playing baseball, it just wasn't there — being able to dictate things in the game and being a leader. That's what we have now, and it was gone when I played baseball."
Henson insists he has no regrets about giving up baseball.
"I don't look back," he said. "That's not part of my personality. After the last baseball season was over, as much as I love playing baseball — to hit and the camaraderie with my teammates — my personality and what I wanted to get from life comes on the football field. I wouldn't have made this switch; this is a huge change, ending one career and starting another. And I wouldn't have done that if I weren't 100 percent sure it's what I wanted to do."
Money matters not
Henson walked away from $12 million in guaranteed money when he left the Yankees, which caused a lot of sports fans to question his sanity.
"I made some money, and I invested well," he said about the $5 million he was paid. "I've tried to keep the same lifestyle. If I'm going to do anything in this league, I'll get the money on the back end. And besides, you can't put a price tag on being happy."
Henson isn't in the same financial stratosphere as he was with the Yankees, but he is at peace with his decision and excited about the future. Because he could have entered this year's draft, which would have cost the Texans his rights, he was able to dictate where he wanted to play.
"A lot of things went into it," he said about preferring to play for the Cowboys. "Having an opportunity to play for coach Parcells. He'll make me a better player than anyone else can. And Mr. Jones is committed to winning. They have a great tradition and a national following.
"I mean, this is the NFL. There's no other league like it. These guys are here for a reason, because they've been successful. They're the best in the world for what they do."
And Henson is one of them.
"This is my first camp, so it's a new experience for me," he said. "I'm trying to get used to the work schedule and improve each day. I can't control the number of repetitions I get, but when I do get them, I want to make them count."