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Henry likely to play in El Toro Bowl on Sturday
The fullback went low for the block, overmatched against stopping the 6-foot-5, 215-pound D'Vante Henry.
Henry flipped into the air and landed awkwardly. He hurt his knee. He thought he was done for the year. This was barely a month ago at New Mexico Military Institute.
But the Arizona Western sophomore linebacker has battled back, and both Henry and coach Tom Minnick said he's likely to play Saturday in the El Toro Bowl presented by Alexander Automotive Group at 1 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium against Nassau.
Henry was a part of last year's Matador defense that gave up 55 points in an eight-point loss in the El Toro Bowl to East Mississippi for the national championship. Like the other AWC sophomores, Henry was motivated to play for the national championship again. While that fell through because of losses at home to Glendale and Snow, Henry still wanted to play in the bowl he helped the Matadors earn.
“It's exciting. It's only the second bowl game I've ever played in,” Henry said. “Last year was a letdown, so I'm trying to come back strong.”
Henry finished the year with 3 1/2 tackles and 8 1/2 tackles for a loss. He led AWC with 24 solo and 63 total tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions — including once against Scottsdale that he took 75 yards for a touchdown, out accelerating Artichoke skill players along the way.
Minnick said he thinks Henry will be on the Veterans Memorial grass once again Saturday against their bowl opponent from New York.
“He's been doing alright, going in, getting treatment,” Minnick said. “The key with him is he has to work himself back into it. He has to make sure he's getting treatment every day.”
The injuries on the defense have been common for the Matadors this year. Randy Gregory, who was poised to have a breakout sophomore year for AWC, played just one game before getting hurt, but was still named to the All-ACCAC second team.
The team has also been without Richard Villasenor and Quyuan Mattox for most of the season. Jonas Clark has missed a chunk of time, but like Henry is likely to play in the bowl Saturday.
“We've been dealing with that all year,” Minnick said. “It just gives someone else a chance to step up and play. If he can't go, he can't go. It's one of those things you move to the next guy and the next guy needs to step up.”
And when Henry went flying into the air, he thought we was going to joining his teammates in the done-for-the-year category.
“I honestly thought I was done,” Henry said. “I had a lot of people keep me up about it, and I'm back.”
Henry said he will visit West Virginia and Texas Tech, and is also interested in Oregon State next season to continue his career.
The sophomore said there was plenty of room for improvement this year, but nearly missing the bowl game has given him a different perspective.
“I think I lost focus for a little bit,” he said, “but it opened my eyes a lot.”