COLUMBIA — One day before the season began, it was over for Rock Bridge junior Jarred Henry.
Just before the preseason Rock Bridge Jamboree, a series of scrimmages played in round-robin format between the Rock Bridge, Hickman and Jefferson City high school football teams on August 25 at Rock Bridge Field, Henry received a letter from the Missouri State High School Activities Association informing him that his varsity athletic eligibility had been revoked.
“I was going to be a starter this year,” Henry said. “I was real mad that I couldn’t play with my teammates after all the hard work over the summer.”
According to Rock Bridge athletic director Jennifer Mast, under the Residential and Transfer Requirements of the MSHSAA bylaws, Henry was in violation of rule 238.3.A, which states that students must simultaneously transfer to their new school and move into the schools’ district, or move into the schools’ district and then transfer. Henry, who had transferred to Rock Bridge from Hickman because of a family move, began attending classes at Rock Bridge in January 2007 and moved into the district in June 2007.
“It’s unfortunate they (his family) didn’t realize the rule,” Mast said.
Henry, who played offensive guard and middle linebacker on the Kewpies’ junior varsity, is now only allowed to play for the Bruins’ junior varsity, where he is a tight end and an outside linebacker. He is the only player on either team to have played for both schools.
So it seems Henry might have mixed emotions during the Providence Bowl, the annual rivalry game between Rock Bridge and Hickman tonight at Faurot Field.
“I’m still going to be rooting for the Bruins,” he said. “But after the game I’m sure I’ll get a little harassment from the Kewpies over there.”
Henry said it was difficult to leave Hickman because of the relationsihps he had developed with his former teammates. As children, he and his former Kewpie teammates, many of whom he had played with since pee-wee, always looked forward to playing with each other on the high school level. Now, as rivals, his former Kewpie teammates, whom Henry spends more time with than his Bruins teammates, often “talk trash” on Rock Bridge and Henry’s change of teams.
“They think I’m more of a traitor,” Henry said. “But we’re still cool. They just joke around sometimes. I just tune them out and say let it happen on the field.”
Russell Davis, a senior cornerback for Hickman and former teammate of Henry, keeps in contact with Henry and agrees that the former group of friends are now just friendly rivals.
“Yeah, all the time (there’s trash talking),” Davis said. “I wasn’t mad though. We’re still cool. I would say he’s a Kewpie at heart because coach (Jason) Wright always says once you start the purple line at Hickman, you can’t leave it.”
Although leaving his former teammates and not being able to play on varsity has been difficult, Henry says that there have been positives about the move. At Rock Bridge, instead of playing offensive guard and inside linebacker, Henry has the opportunity to play outside linebacker and tight end, positions which coach A.J. Ofodile feels Henry is better suited for.
“Offensively, that’s where his skills are best suited,” Ofodile said. “He’s a natural pass catcher. He’s got the skills to play that position. We were a little disappointed because we thought he would be able to help us out.”
Henry is especially happy to be able to play tight end on junior varsity this year, and have the opportunity to play the position next year on varsity. His father, Lloyd Henry, was a tight end in the NFL for three years, playing for the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. Henry’s brother, Rocky Henry, also played in the NFL, splitting his six years between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
“I wanted to be like him (his father),” Henry said. “I’ve always wanted to be like him.”
The Rock Bridge spread offense, which contrasts to Hickman’s conservative offense, will be able to highlight Henry’s abilities at tight end. Henry said this is another compensation for the difficult move from Hickman.
“Hickman is more of a traditional, pound the ball offense,” he said. “Rock Bridge is more newer.”
Although the process of becoming the new player on the team resulted in his varsity ineligibility, Henry tries to help the varsity team out in anyway he can, practicing every day even though he knows he will not be able to play.
“I still to get to help my team out,” he said. “I get to give them the best look I can. And that helps them in the real game.”
But which is his real team? Is he a Bruin or Kewpie at heart?
“I don’t really know (whether he is a Bruin or Kewpie),” Henry said. “I’ve been going to Rock Bridge a little longer now, so I guess I’m a Bruin.”