COLUMBUS — TreVeyon Henderson had a plan all along.
But when that required some adjustments on the journey, he wasn’t going to let that change his intentions to commit to Ohio State.
Admittedly, the five-star prospect with the absurd highlight reel wanted to visit the Buckeyes first. But his mind was made up that chance was taken away from him anyway.
“I was planning on committing to Ohio State no matter what in April,” Henderson the country’s No. 2-ranked tailback and a 5-star prospect, told Lettermen Row. “Before I thought about committing, I had started asking all types of schools the tougher questions.
“Questions like: ‘What is the education like? How good is the education here? What is your culture is like? How do your running backs fit into your offense?’ Most of the schools froze up. I was like: ‘Wow, OK, you can’t even answer these basic questions?'”
Ohio State had no problem answering those questions and that’s just one of the reasons why Henderson, listed at 5-foot-11 and 195-pounds, knew the Buckeyes were the right fit for him, with or without ever stepping a foot on campus in Columbus.
‘I tried to talk him out of it’
Hopewell (Va.) High School coach Ricky Irby had an inclination that his star running back was leaning toward an early commitment.
He knew the recruiting process was weighing heavy on Henderson’s mind and that his relationship with the Buckeyes had quickly passed from perfunctory to purposeful.
Still, it was early to commit. Coronavirus concerns had removed the chance for Henderson to visit all the schools he’d been getting to know over the years. There was no reason to commit unless he was absolutely ready. But how can a coach be sure his player is actually ready? When TreVeyon Henderson told Irby he was ready to commit to Ohio State, the coach turned mentor and tried to offer up some pragmatic advice.
“I actually tried to talk him out of it,” Irby told Lettermen Row. “I just tried to say, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you wait?’ Because at the time, we thought he was going to be able to take this later in the spring. I said: ‘Trey, why don’t you just wait ’til you can take your business so you’re 100 percent sure?’
“One of the things I always tell my guys is that I don’t really like them decommitting. I don’t want any of our kids to do that once you’ve given your word. Because you know that’s kind of one of the only things you’ve got in this life: Your word is your word. Once you commit somewhere, you should keep you should honor that. So, I wanted him to make sure he took his visits, just so that he was 100-percent sure, not 99.9-percent. But he told me he was sure.”
More than just football with Ohio State
The Buckeyes answered the questions for TreVeyon Henderson. But more than anything else that Ohio State could have done, it provided the young running back with a respite from the suffocation that recruiting causing him.
“I’m not going to lie, for a while, Oklahoma was in the lead,” Henderson said. “But as I started talking more to [Buckeyes running backs coach] Tony Alford, I just knew that he was the coach I wanted to play for. With other schools, when I’d talk to them, it’d just be all football. What can I do on the football field for them? With Tony Alford and Ryan Day, it was not about football, almost never. It was about the program and what it could do for me.
“It was always: Hey man, how’s your family? How’s your mom? Most other schools didn’t even bring up education and what they could offer me until I tweeted that I was ready to commit. They acted surprised I’d even care about that. Maybe they feel like guys like me, top prospects or whatever, don’t worry, or don’t focus on like the education part. I told everyone that I was big on the education stuff because I want to get my degree. I want to get a great degree before I worry about the NFL.”
Cut the highlight tape of TreVeyon Henderson and it’s easy to see why a lot of college coaches focus only on his football talents. To do that loses sight of the fact that he’s just not like every other major college football prospect.
“When Trey makes his mind up, he’s pretty, pretty set, you know?” Irby said. “And he had made his mind up that Ohio State was where he wanted to be. I told Trey and all of our kids that are being recruited, ‘This is the one time in your life where you got to be selfish.’ And Trey is a different type of kid.”
‘Michigan was a tough one’ for TreVeyon Henderson
It’s cliche, but recruiting is about relationships.
Ohio State recruited Henderson and his family with a three-pronged approach that included Tony Alford, Ryan Day and Al Washington — who actually opened the door for the Buckeyes because he was working on Henderson two years earlier when he worked at Michigan.
The Wolverines were expecting to get an official visit from TreVeyon Henderson in June. Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh was very close to Henderson throughout the process, and he’s a coach who the 5-star talent still gives credit to for his incredible junior season. Breaking the news to Harbaugh was a difficult thing for the Virginia Player of the Year.
“Michigan was a tough one,” Irby told Lettermen Row. “Coach Harbaugh had invested a lot of time and had been down to see him many times. I think that was a difficult conversation to have.”
That’s probably the reason that Henderson tried to avoid it. Harbaugh had been a key part of his growth on the field and was surprised by his early choice.
“We were talking on the phone, but I was trying to not have those calls if I could help it,” Henderson said. “But I’m not going to lie, [Harbaugh] was shocked. I’d still been texting him a lot. Coach Harbaugh would always send me drills and stuff to work on my game.”
Committing to Ohio State is among the most effective ways to end a relationship with Michigan. That wasn’t easy for Henderson, but he’s stepped into his new role as a future Buckeyes star fully, embracing the greatest rivalry in sports in public and in private.
“At first I didn’t know how serious this rivalry game was,” Henderson said. “The Ohio State staff would send me videos and stuff, but you still don’t know. Since then I’ve taken the time and I looked at it on my own on YouTube, and I looked it up what it means to people.
“I’ve just been doing my research, and honestly The Game is huge. I didn’t want to have to do it, but I felt like I needed to unfollow all of The Team Up North coaches after I committed. I think I followed all of them. I felt like it was disrespectful to my team to keep following them.”
Pressure off TreVeyon Henderson shoulders
When talking to TreVeyon Henderson now, it’s hard not to be shocked at the transformation to his personality since picking Ohio State on March 28.
“He has a total lightness to him now,” Irby told Lettermen Row. “He’s just got a weight off his shoulders, you know? For all these kids being recruited is so cool and exciting in the beginning, but as the process goes on, it starts to wear on you a little bit.
“Everybody wants interviews and everybody is trying to build that relationship and you’re talking to thirty or forty different schools, coaches and then you’ve got the media. Each school with their two or three or four different recruiting sites, I think all of that eventually just grew on him a little bit.”
The pressure of the recruiting world was the only thing to slow Henderson down in the last year. But he wants to make it perfectly clear that there was no pressure from Ohio State to end his recruitment as soon as he did. The pressure came from within, born of a desire to get back to being a normal teenager again.
“I couldn’t be a normal kid anymore,” Henderson said. “I’d have to check my phone all day, every day. I had to keep calling coaches while I’m trying to do school work, then go to work out, to hang out with friends. So I just wanted to be a regular kid again. Every school I talked to when I told them I was ready to commit, they were like: ‘Man don’t let anyone pressure you’ but no one did.’
I wanted to commit to Ohio State. They didn’t make me.”
Using unique commitment to his advantage
Committing to a college without visiting isn’t normal. It’s not ideal for most kids, but TreVeyon Henderson thinks that he can use his own recruitment to the benefit of Ohio State.
If a top-ranked prospect can commit to the Buckeyes sight unseen, why wouldn’t any other player being courted by the program join him?
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Henderson said. “I’m locked in with Ohio State. If they let us up there, I’ll be there every week if I can.
“Me committing there but not visiting? I tell other recruits straight up, I saw everything I need to see from the coaches and the people there. I’ve seen and learned all I need to know. They’ve got everything we need. It doesn’t get better than Ohio State and we don’t need to be on campus to feel that.”