Ex-Bengal Chris Henry's sons walk, look like him. Even better, they play football like him
HYDE PARK - Look closely. The Withrow Junior High School Tigers are on the field and pretty much having their way with any and all opponents.
On either side of the offensive line, two young wide receivers stand ready to catch any pass that comes their way.
If you know football, they look very promising.
If you've been around Cincinnati a while, they may even look familiar.
They are No. 1 and No. 5, known by friends and family as Man-Man and Bubba.
They are the two sons that Bengal wide receiver Chris Henry, who wore No. 15 and died tragically at 26, left fatherless as babies.
Fatherless, but not alone. Because in Henry's stead, another familiar face came to their rescue, to be the dad and mentor Henry could not.
As he told NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe on Sharpe's podcast in early September, equally familiar Bengal Adam "Pacman" Jones is the Henry boys' adoptive father now.
They call him Uncle Pac.
'I love those kids to death': Pacman Jones steps in to help family
Henry would be 38 if he were living today, watching now 14-year-old Chris Jr. ("Man-Man") and 12-year-old DeMarcus ("Bubba") play football. Henry and Loleini Tonga also have a daughter, Seini.
The kids were 3, 2 and 10 months when their father died in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dec. 17, 2009, after falling out of a truck and striking his head during what police later termed a domestic dispute. His season that year had ended early when he broke his left forearm in early November while playing the Baltimore Ravens.
Nearly a dozen years later, Chris Jr. is already 6-foot-3-inches and glides smoothly to the ball much as his 6-foot-4-inch father, once a deep threat who complemented Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzahdeh on some of Marvin Lewis' best teams.
Chris Jr. cooly corrals balls and, though an eighth-grader, would not be out of place on any varsity team.
If you double-team No. 1, No. 5 DeMarcus can burn you on the other side.
"Every game I come, they always make a touchdown," proud grandmother Carolyn Henry Glaspy said. "They're following their Daddy's traits. They just make me happy to be here. No. 1, that's Chris Henry's baby, and No. 5 is right behind him."
They had a little help there.
Jones, the deeply talented cornerback from West Virginia University, was taken in the first round of the 2005 draft by the Tennessee Titans. Henry, who also played for WVU, was drafted in the third round that year by the Bengals. Both had their own trials and tribulations in the NFL.
They were close. They had been roommates.
And, when Henry died, Jones stayed in touch with Henry's children's mother. Jones was a Bengal from 2010-2017 after Henry's passing but has stayed in town. The Henry boys had been coming to town every summer and Jones and Tonga had extended conversations on how he could help them achieve their goals.
"Sports-wise, football-wise, we think it's best for the boys," Jones said. "I can push them a little bit more. I've done the things they're trying to do. We have an unbelievable relationship. I love those kids to death. Their mom loves them to death; their grandma loves them to death."
Jones is married with his own kids, but Loleini Tonga is also in town now. Henry's mother, Carolyn, has been in town for more than a decade.
Big cheering section at Withrow Junior High School
At a recent game against Aiken, plenty of friends and family were at Withrow cheering on Chris Jr. and DeMarcus. Tonga, Glaspy, Pacman, his wife and kids all huddled around the two spitting images of a football talent lost nearly a dozen years ago.
"I think they have the ability sports-wise and grade-wise to be special and play on the next level," Jones said. "And, I'm not talking college. We're family-oriented. They're here in Cincinnati because Uncle Pac's got the recipe to make them be unbelievable as far as sports and education."
It doesn't come without the work.
Jones has them in the gym at 6:30 in the morning before school begins at 7:30 a.m. After school, there's a practice or a game. If not, they're back in the gym.
Their talents are not surprising considering they came from athletic parents (Tonga played volleyball) and that a former NFL defensive back is challenging them on pass routes.
"I don't let them catch the ball," Jones said. "If they catch the ball. they deserve to catch the ball."
Grinning, Jones admits the taller pair can score a bucket or two on his 5-foot-10-inch frame in basketball.
"Bubba (DeMarcus) is left-handed, so he's really kind of tricky with the ball," Jones said.
Jones sees everything in the kids that he saw in the teammate he knew as "Slim."
They walk the same; their mannerisms and demeanor are the same. Jones practiced with Chris Sr. every day when they were West Virginia Mountaineers.
"He got me to where I was at," Jones said. "Without Chris, I would not be drafted sixth overall, first defensive player. It's a big family thing. We're just trying to expose them to everything that's possible in a positive way."
Jones said the boys have some memories of their father and have seen plenty of his acrobatic, beautiful pass receptions. He knows No. 15 would be immensely proud of Nos. 1 and 5.
"He got cut short and we didn't get to see everything he had in the tank," Jones said of what could have been.
Young Tigers in orange and black
"They're the life-blood of the future here at Withrow," Kali Jones, Withrow varsity coach, said while watching the Tigers' junior high game. "They (Henry's sons) are outstanding athletes and outstanding student-athletes."
By all reports, Carolyn Henry Glaspy's grandsons are doing well in the classroom, too.
Their dad would be pleased by that too.
Glaspy's eyes glow when speaking of them. Her son's transplanted organs saved four people whom she has met. Now she watches her son's sons prosper.
"I think they're just having an awesome time having fun being kids," Coach Jones said.