KJ Henry is moving on from Clemson as he gets ready to start the next chapter of his life and football career, but Tiger Town will always be home to him.
“I plan to be back as much as I can,” he said. “Obviously the next three and five years, I’ll have teammates I played with. So, I’ll continue to support them in any way that I can. But these coaches, this community, it’s genuine love there. So, it’s a second home for me, and I will be a Tiger forever.”
Following his fourth year at Clemson in 2021, Henry could have entered the NFL Draft or transferred to another school with less talent and competition for playing time on the defensive line.
Instead, the defensive end decided to return for one final season with the Tigers, and that paid off for him in a big way as he started all 14 games and earned All-ACC honors in what was a breakout season for the former five-star prospect.
“I feel like it worked out immensely in my favor for sure. Definitely wasn’t an easy decision,” he said of coming back to Clemson. “Whether I was leaving, whether I was transferring, staying, a lot of things were up in the air just because of so much talent that we have here. Hindsight 20/20, I obviously appreciate that I stayed.”
Last season, Henry collected 59 tackles (9.0 for loss), 3.5 sacks, six pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to go along with a team-high 24 quarterback pressures. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native concluded his Clemson career (2018-22) with 147 tackles (28.0 for loss), 13.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles over 58 career games (24 starts).
Henry ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month but tweaked his hamstring on his second 40-yard dash attempt. He said it’s a minor injury and he “feels great now,” but he didn’t want to risk aggravating it by running again at Clemson’s pro day on March 14. He plans to participate in a private workout for teams on April 4.
For teams thinking about taking the 6-foot-4, 251-pounder in the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29, Kansas City), Henry has a sales pitch regarding the type of player and person that an organization would be getting in him.
“The message in the last month or so is I’m ready to come in and change a culture. That’s just the mindset,” he said. “I’m excited to learn how to do that. I’m not coming in with the mindset that I know it all, but I definitely understand the tools of leadership and genuine accountability that I bring on top of just a winner. That’s what you’re getting out of me. In whatever facet you need me, I’m capable and able and willing to do anything that’s asked of me. And more than anything, I’m just wanting to win.
“So, excited to see where I land. I’ve been talking to my dad a couple days ago, I’m the low man on the totem pole again, but with a lot more knowledge than the 17-, 18-year-old version that came in here. So, excited for the challenge, the adversity that’s going to come with it and the opportunity to play at the next level. Excited for it all, and ready to make a difference.”
Dear Old Clemson has added the Tiger Sack Pack to our online store. Save by getting the Two Pack of signed cards from two of the nation’s top defensive ends, Myles Murphy and Xavier Thomas.
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