Chris Henry – the tragedy of a flawed talent

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Cincinnati Bengals’ wide-receiver, Chris Henry, died in hospital Thursday of injuries sustained when falling from a moving pcikup truck in what police are calling a domestic dispute.

At 26-years old, Henry, had made a lifetime of ‘mistakes’ and was finally showing the first signs of maturing into a responsible father to his three children, which makes this incident all the more poignant.

In an era of redemption and second chances, Henry had played the last-chance saloon’s get out of jail card often enough to realise that he needed to reform.

In an interview with AP during training camp, Henry, confessed:

“I don’t live the way I did in the past,”

“I kind of plan my days out and take it one day at a time and stay away from the wrong people. I’m not partying anymore. I’m just focused on football right now and my family. I don’t associate with the same people. I’ve completely changed everything.”

Quite how those good intentions translated into the event that led to him being thrown from the back of a moving pick-up driven by his partner, the mother of his children, we may never know.

We can only ponder with sadness the fragility of life. And wonder how a life so full of talent and promise ended in tragedy.

Henry’s career was dogged throughout by off-field issues. Even in college at West Virginia he was branded an ’embarrassment’ by then coach, RIch Rodriguez, after repeatedly getting into trouble.

So tarnished was his reputation by those incidents that only the Bengals contemplated selecting him when he entered the 2005 draft; no other franchise even invited him for a visit, despite his standout ability to breeze-by defensive backs.

After issuing stern warnings as to his future conduct the Bengals made him their third round pick and Henry went on to star front-centre stage in the NFL playoffs that same season. The receiver caught the only pass thrown by Carson Palmer, with both players being injured on the play and taking no further part in the game.

Sadly the fame that came with NFL stardom did little to temper his unerring ability to find trouble. A stubborn refusal to distance himself from the friends he grew-up with undoubtedly anchored him in a dangerous lifestyle. Wealth meant that drugs and weapons were now not only tokens of credibility and prestige, but also affordable and irresistible.

A weapons charge in January 2006 followed December’s marijuana possession charge and two subsequent arrests quickly followed them.

Despite the inevitable NFL mandated suspensions, including missing the opening half of 2007, Henry was unable to shake his bad boy image. Coach, Marvin Lewis, and the Bengals’ organisation cut Henry after a fifth arrest, in 2007

After serving a four-game suspension at the start of 2008, Henry was granted a reprieve by the Bengals who gave him a two-year contract. Impressive performances in the remainder of last season, plus a tough off-season programme gave the Cincinnati coaches hope that he was a reformed character.

Now those hopes, like the promising career, and the fragile life of a troubled young man, have been dashed.

Chris Henry was no saint, but he deserved better than this end, our heartfelt sympathies go to his surviving family and friends. There is a story here that the youth of the world should hear.