The consensus four-star national ranking somewhat betrays the inarguable fact: Darrion Henry just now is beginning to paw at his potential on the football field.
After all, Ohio State’s recently-signed defensive lineman is just a few years removed from not even playing the sport in eighth and ninth grades. Those days are remembered for Henry’s excellence elsewhere: Among the state of Ohio’s top-ranked rising basketball prospects and a member of LeBron James’ AAU program.
“A little bit about Darrion, he thought that he wanted to play basketball,” said Cincinnati Princeton coach Mike Daniels, Henry’s cousin and a former Cincinnati Bearcats great. “But he reverted back to what was special for him, which was football.
“Going into his eighth-grade year, Darrion was one of the top-rated kids in the state in terms of basketball. He played for the LeBron James AAU team. He didn’t even play football his freshman year. That was his goal, basketball.”
Henry already is on campus in Columbus, rooming with former prep teammate Paris Johnson and part of Ryan Day’s first full signing class.
Henry is under no illusions about his path. He’s candid in the knowledge that improvement is mandated in myriad areas if Henry in the fall is going to join the list of freshman contributors in a program that’s recognized for its willingness to play rookies.
“Hopefully to be one of those guys that play, but I’ve got a long way to go,” Henry said of his incoming goals. “[I’m] nowhere close. I haven’t touched the surface of what I can be at.”
Daniels likewise knows the best is ahead for Henry, who’s been working to transform his body even before arriving at Ohio state.
“He’s a very gifted athlete,” Daniels told Lettermen Row. “He’s just a big man. And so he’s got a great combination of the power and speed.
“For him, he had the injury going into his senior year with his shoulder and he couldn’t train as much as he wanted to. But when he gets into that program and gets under Mick [Marotti, the Ohio State strength coach], and gets with [defensive line coach] Larry Johnson, he’s going to have a really good future.”
Henry is building that future alongside Paris Johnson, his roommate, and fellow newcomer Jacolbe Cowan, another defensive lineman and former Henry AAU acquaintance.
“It’s been pretty cool,” said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Henry. “We’re roommates too, so we get to talk about everything we’re going through. I’m not going through this by myself.
“I’ve known Jacolbe for a little bit, since like sixth grade, so we’ve been cool since then.”
Daniels, quick to remember Henry’s 60-yard pick-six from the defensive tackle position as a sophomore, is eager to see Henry’s career unfold at Ohio State because of his community backing him.
“I feel really good about what he’s going to do up there and how things are going to go,” Daniels said. “He grew up in the community, went through our school system, his mom went to Princeton and I went to high school with her, he’s kind of a true hometown hero in that respect because of him growing up and playing with the local youth teams.
“When he chose Ohio State, everybody was so excited.”
Still, the best is yet to come for Darrion Henry.