This morning, Bengals receiver Chris Henry died after falling out of pickup truck during a dispute with his fiancee. Henry’s fiancee tried to drive away, and Henry attempted to jump on the back of the pickup truck. He fell out. The injuries sustained were too much to recover from. Our thoughts and prayers are with his families.
“We knew him in a different way than his public persona,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said of the player who was suspended five times during his career. “He had worked through the troubles in his life and had finally seemingly reached the point where everything was going to blossom. And he was going to have the future we all wanted for him. It’s painful to us. We feel it in our hearts, and we will miss him.”
Chris Henry is a story in redemption, a story in a comeback ending far too soon. Henry had been arrested five times. He has been called a “one man crime wave”. He had been suspended for half a season. He had been released by the Bengals. The Bengals were the only team willing to take a chance on him. He was the poster boy for what was wrong in the NFL, his talent be damned. He was a risk. No team would touch him. No team would go near him. He was a cancer.
But, after his release, Henry changed. When the Bengals brought him back, he was determined to live up to his potential. He spent more time working out. He spent more time with his fiancee and with his kids. He was a changed man. The Bengals noticed.
“He’s a great kid with a great heart,” (Bengals QB Carson)Palmer said as training camp started. “He’s changed his life around. He ran into some trouble, made some bad decisions, and realized that. He’s sorry for them, apologized for them, and has done everything he can to make himself a better person. I’m just proud of him.”
“If you only knew him by hearsay, you’d think he’s some kind of ogre,” Brown said during the Bengals’ appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series this summer. “It’s not true. He’s a good person. When you see him up close, you’ll find that you’ll like him. He’ll be a soft-spoken, pleasant person.”
“I kind of felt like I dug myself out of the hole and started doing the right things,” Henry said in an interview with The Associated Press as training camp opened. “People say, ‘How you feeling now Chris? You doing all right?’ I just tell them I’m blessed. That’s why I got it.”
He did get it. He did understand the consequences of his poor decisions. He dug himself out of a deep hole, a hole deeper than anyone could imagine. And then, just like that, he’s gone. Just like that, a comeback was ended. Just like that, another athlete died far too young.
You can talk about what the NFL can do to help troubled players. But in the end, there is no justification for this. There is no answer as to why this happened. No one can know what this domestic dispute was about. No one can know what caused Henry to jump on the back of the pickup truck. No one can know. No one can ever know. What we do know is that Henry was a changed a man. A family man. 3 kids. All under 3 years. They’ll never see their father again.
Chris Henry, for all intents and purposes, is a marked man. He’s the trouble maker. He’s the poster boy for bad behavior. No one will remember his comeback. No one will remember his struggle for redemption. No one will remember that he turned around his life. Because, we focus on the negative parts. We focus on what someone did wrong, not what someone did right. Chris Henry won’t be remembered as a family man. He won’t be remembered as a hard worker, as a good teammate. He won’t be remembered as someone who turned his life around. He’ll be remembered as the guy who fell out of a truck, a trouble maker. That’s his legacy.
It’s times like these that we reach into our moral conscious. We reach deep down, to find emotions, to find understanding. In Chris Henry’s case, there is no understanding. There is only confusion. There is only sadness. There are only questions: Why does the one who turns his life around die? Why doesn’t the one who can’t turn his life around? What did Chris Henry do wrong? We will never know the answers. And that’s what frustrating.
Chris Henry was 26. He had a fiancee, 3 kids. He was an amazing talent, who, though hurt, was anxious to get back on the field. Chris Henry is dead. He won’t see his fiancee again. He won’t see his 3 kids. Maybe the mistakes of his past caught up to him. Maybe they never left. Whatever happened, I will remember Chris Henry as someone who changed. I will remember Chris Henry as a family man. I will remember Chris Henry as a hard worker, as a good teammate. Rest in Peace, Chris Henry. I guess heaven needed a wide receiver.