MK_061319

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MK_061319

38 | June 13, 2019 | the mokena messenger sports

mokenamessenger.com

Healthy Henning enjoys recruiting experience, track season

STEVE MILLAR, Sports Editor

It was a whirlwind

spring for AJ Henning.

Lincoln-Way East’s

star wide receiver/running

back, ranked as the

top recruit in Illinois in

the Class of 2020 by 247

Sports, travelled across the

country on recruiting visits

to some of the nation’s top

football programs. He still

managed to find the time

to compete on the Griffins’

track and field team.

Henning’s unofficial

visits in the spring included

stops at Illinois,

Northwestern, Georgia,

Florida, Alabama, Louisville,

Notre Dame and

Michigan.

He’s tried to soak in the

whole experience and enjoy

all the trips.

“It’s a blessing,” Henning

said. “Not a lot of

players have that opportunity

to do it, so it’s a very

special thing.”

There have been some

surreal moments along the

way, like meeting Alabama

coach Nick Saban and posing

for a picture with him.

Henning was also excited

to get to know Michigan

coach and former

Bears quarterback Jim

Harbaugh.

“Getting to meet all

these coaches, Nick Saban,

Harbaugh, I’ve always

dreamed of that,” Henning

said. “It’s pretty cool to

actually meet them in person,

shake their hand and

have a conversation with

them.

“There have been a lot

of fun moments and I’m

just trying to enjoy the

whole process.”

Henning, a consensus

four-star recruit, has

over 30 offers from major

programs. Nearly the

entire Big 10 - Illinois,

Indiana, Iowa, Michigan,

Michigan State, Minnesota,

Northwestern, Ohio

State, Penn State, Purdue,

Nebraska, Rutgers and

Wisconsin – has offered.

Alabama, Georgia,

LSU, Missouri and Tennessee

have all come calling

from the SEC, as have

Boston College, Duke,

Florida State, Miami and

Syracuse from the ACC

and Stanford of the Pac 12.

Henning is ranked as the

No. 78 player and No. 16

receiver in the nation by

247Sports.

Rivals has him as the

No. 3 all-purpose back,

No. 84 overall and No.

2 in Illinois behind East

St. Louis safety Antonio

Johnson.

Back on the track

Henning finished third

in the state in the 100-meter

dash as a freshman but

missed his entire sophomore

track season after hip

surgery.

Injuries have kept him

off the football field for

portions of the last two

seasons, as well, but Henning

said he felt great this

spring while picking up

where he left off on the

track.

“It’s been awesome,” he

said. “It’s been great to be

with the team and be able

to compete on the track

again. It’s been a lot of

fun.”

“That was my thing all

year, to get back down [to

state] and show I’ve still

got it in the 100.”

Henning qualified for

state and saved his best

race for Charleston as he

turned in a season-best

time of 10.73 seconds in

the finals to finish fourth in

the state.

“The whole goal was to

make it back to the finals

and have a good race,”

Henning said. “The drive

phase, then you hit your

top end and try to maintain

it the rest of the race.”

Henning felt the track

season helped him get

primed for a huge senior

year on the football field.

“Being out there competing

again really meant

a lot to me,” he said. “It

keeps me sharp and keeps

me fast heading into the

fall.”

The decision looms

Henning plans to return

to several of his spring

destinations for official

visits over the summer.

He made his first official

visit to Georgia the first

weekend of June and was

scheduled to visit Notre

Dame last weekend. A

Michigan trip is coming

up.

Forty-three percent of

247Sports’ experts predict

Henning to choose Notre

Dame, 29 percent pick

Michigan and the rest are

undecided.

Henning says he falls

into that latter category as

well, and he’s in no major

rush to make a choice.

“I’m taking it slow,” he

said. “I plan to make a decision

over the summer or

in the fall.”

Henning is an excellent

student and will factor academics

into his decision as

well.

“It’s just about finding

the right fit all around,”

he said. “Academics are

important, fitting in with

the players and the coaching

staff is important. It’s

finding the place that feels

right for me.”

Whatever school lands

Henning will be fortunate,

according to East coach

Rob Zvonar.

Last fall, Zvonar called

Henning “a special talent

with an incredibly bright

future.”

The immediate future will

be highlighted by one more

season at East, one Henning

plans to make special.

“I’m really excited for

the fall,” he said. “I think

we’re going to have a great

team and I’m ready to get

after it. I’m ready to go out

there with my guys and

chase after a state championship.”

Lincoln-Way East wide receiver/running back AJ Henning, who will be a senior in the fall, is one of the nation’s top football recruits. 22ND CENTURY MEDIA FILE PHOTOS

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