How recruiting stars aligned for West Clermont football's Chris Henry Jr.

Scott Springer
Cincinnati Enquirer

UNION TOWNSHIP – Not yet having attended a class as an academic freshman, Chris Henry Jr. has already been invited to the Under Armour All-American Game for high school football standouts in Orlando.

That would be the one in 2026 after his senior year. Chris Henry Jr. is still 14 years old.

The son of late former Bengal Chris Henry who showed up on Greater Cincinnati football radar as an eighth-grader at Withrow, is now in summer drills with his new team, the West Clermont Wolves.

Chris and his younger brother DeMarcus (who will be an eighth-grader at West Clermont Middle) transferred this spring under the guidance of former Bengal Adam "Pacman" Jones, their adoptive father who resides in Union Township.

DeMarcus Henry, left, and his brother, Chris Henry Jr., right, sons of former Cincinnati Bengal Chris Henry, played junior high football for Withrow. They both have transferred to West Clermont where Henry Jr. will be a freshman with the Wolves. DeMarcus is in eighth grade.

"It's been great," Henry said of the move. "They treat me like family. They helped me transition."

His junior high coach at Withrow, Dee Alston, was a teammate of Chris Henry Sr. at West Virginia along with Jones. When Nate Mahon was hired as West Clermont's head coach, Alston was brought on as offensive coordinator. 

"They're in store for a kid that can really stretch the field with great ball skills," Alston said. "He's a good all-around kid. He's going to be good for the team, good for the program and good for the community."

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One of Mahon's first moves was to take his new team to some college camps. Henry had been to some events, but the Wolves as a whole had not. Upon arriving, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day asked Mahon where West Clermont was located.

By the end of the camp, Buckeyes receiving coach Brian Hartline knew, as did Day as Ohio State extended an offer. Minus any varsity stats, the 6-foot-4 inch, 175-pound freshman-to-be added to his previous offers which include West Virginia, Marshall, Grambling State, Jackson State, Connecticut, Akron, Penn State and South Florida. 

"I had told the recruiting coordinator, Ed Terwilliger, we had about 70 kids," Mahon said. "I gave him the names of some guys, obviously Chris was one of them. There wasn't a lot of name recognition. It's not like they were expecting him. He got up there and performed really well. Next thing you know, they're pulling him into coach Day's office and offering him."

Said Henry, "I had a fun experience up there competing and getting better. It's all about work though. I put in the work to make it look easy."

The son of a player with 119 career NFL receptions and 21 touchdowns started at age six as a defensive tackle. Henry says he started out "fat" and didn't become a receiver until three years ago. Eventually, he grew into the same physique that earned his father the nickname "Slim 15".

Already celebrated in Morgantown for his visit to his father's alma mater, Henry Jr. quickly turned heads in Columbus. Alston saw it all of last year and sometimes turns his own head because of the resemblance the young receiver has to his father physically and in playing style. 

"Sometimes I have to double glance," Alston said of his former teammate's son. "I see his father. I was around his father all the time. Sometimes out of the side of my eye he looks exactly like his father and it trips me out sometimes."

Chris Henry Jr. is in summer conditioning with West Clermont. On a recent team trip to Ohio State camp, the 14-year-old was offered by the Buckeyes. He also has offers from West Virginia, Marshall, Akron, Penn State, South Florida, Grambling State and Jackson State.

Alston was a receiver, so Chris Jr. is being tutored by a Division I pass catcher, a former NFL defensive back and has the genes of a past NFL playmaker.

Family is important to him as he mentions it alongside each football visit or experience. He doesn't expect to commit to any college until his junior or senior year. so there could be many more visits to come.

"I'm looking at more how they make me feel at home where I feel like I can develop and get better," Henry said of his suitors.

Chris Henry Jr.'s siblings DeMarcus Henry, Seini Hicks are also athletic standouts

It may not happen overnight for Henry and the Wolves, as they have to evolve from the previous Wing-T running offense to stretching the field some with the ninth-grader who will wear No. 15. At Withrow, Chris wore No. 1 with his brother DeMarcus taking No. 5 for the junior high squad.

"He's earned everything he's gotten," Mahon said. "He's worked hard and done everything the right way. We just want to continue to keep him as healthy as possible as we approach August. He has very, very good ball skills at an elite level."

Their sister has also joined them at West Clermont after winning a North Carolina state championship as a sophomore. Seini Hicks will be a junior for Jeff Click's girls basketball team and is proud to be part of something with her brothers.

Chris Henry plays with his kids Seini, 3 and Chris Jr., 2 or (ManMan) as they call him at their Wyoming home Tuesday September 15, 2009

"It's always been us three," Hicks said. "I push them and we push each other Seeing them do their thing is just a great experience. Just knowing where we came from and how much work we put in, seeing it all come together, I just love it."

Hicks has her own notoriety in recruiting circles. Locally, Cincinnati and Xavier have offered the 5-foot-11 inch forward as well as Dayton, Elon, Eastern Michigan, North Carolina A&T and Murray State. 

The three siblings previously lived in Charlotte, North Carolina with the boys coming north under the guidance of Jones about a year ago. Seini joined them over the spring after winning a second state crown for Julius Chambers High School in Charlotte. She's planning on two more at her new school. 

New-look West Clermont has bright future with Chris Henry Jr.

Chris Henry Jr. and DeMarcus also play basketball and by 2023 all three will be in the building prowling for the Wolves. 

Chris Henry Jr. has several Division I offers before playing a down at West Clermont.

For now, pencil in Aug. 19 as the opener for Chris Henry Jr. as Mahon leads West Clermont against his old team, the Hamilton Big Blue. Hamilton won last year, but Mahon knows some of West Clermont's talent has improved. In particular, their deep threat.

"Obviously we're morphing from a Wing-T offense to something that's more spread," Mahon said. "I think we have the pieces for that. We're trying to find a quarterback that can handle it. We think we have a couple in-house guys. We feel like we have some pieces that can make for a good team."

Gone 13 years this December, Chris Henry Jr. acknowledges that the father, who nicknamed him "Man-Man", would be proud. His mother, Loleini Tonga and grandmother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy are in town and continue to see a glimpse of the past building a promising future.