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St. C.’s Henry commits to Ohio State

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Avery Henry has admitted that he didn’t grow up as a die-hard Ohio State football fan.

As of late Tuesday, there may not be a bigger — literally or figuratively — Buckeye fan in Belmont County.

Henry — a four-year mainstay for the Red Devils — called members of the Buckeyes coaching staff, including head coach Ryan Day, and offered his verbal commitment to join the Ohio State University football program next fall.

“It feels great to be a part of one of the greatest college football programs in history,” Henry said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me as Buckeye.”

Henry will officially sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, Dec. 15 during the NCAA Football early signing period.

This is actually the second college commitment that Henry has made. During the summer, he gave a verbal to Iowa State. After careful consideration and many conversations with his family, the 12-hour drive of nearly 800 miles was simply farther away from home than Henry wanted to go.

“Iowa State is a great program and the coaches were very nice to me,” Henry admitted.

With the distance in mind, Henry and a few members of his family were in Ohio Stadium for the win over Akron on Sept. 25. The very next day, on his Twitter account, Henry announced he was decommitting from the Cyclones.

“It was hard,” Henry said of the conversaion with Iowa State. “My family and I had talked and thought about it for several weeks. It was just too far away and not a lot of my family would be able to come and watch the games.”

Henry, however, left Columbus that night without a formal offer. But, Buckeye coaches had told him and St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean that they planned to come to a game to watch him play.

That occurred last Thursday when offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa watched the first half of the Red Devils’ 35-0 victory against Wheeling Central.

“Before the game, Coach McLean and I talked about the (Ohio State) coaches being here and he told me to just play and treat it like a regular game,” Henry said. “Coach McLean said, ‘work as hard as possible’ because even if they weren’t there, I still had to perform and do everything right to help our team.”

Henry clearly did his part.

On Monday evening, Henry announced that he had talked with Day and Studrawa and received a formal scholarship offer.

“Coach Stud was congratulating me (on the offer) and then Coach Day got on the phone and asked me what I thought about Ohio State,” Henry said. “I told him how prestigious of a school I thought it was and he then offered me.”

It wasn’t just what the Buckeye coaches saw against the Knights that landed Henry the offer. In doing their homework on him, the Buckeyes discovered that Henry had spent the spring and summer working on his body to the point where he’d dropped 75 pounds.

“Coach Stud told me ‘guys like you who are willing to lose 75 pounds to play the sport they love’ are the types of guys they wanted,” Henry said.

Henry’s weight-loss plan wasn’t complicated. Quite simply, he cleaned up his diet and exercised a lot.

“I was eating a whole lot of grilled chicken, protein shakes and eating three, good meals a day,” Henry said. “Plus, I would run twice a day and lift for my third workout of the day. It was hard, but I knew it was something that had to be done if I was going to be great.”

The weight loss has allowed Henry to become more of a two-way player for the Red Devils, who are sitting at 8-1 entering this week’s regular season finale against Cambridge.

Playing high school ball at 6-7, 300 pounds makes Henry the biggest guy on the field basically every week. However, he pointed out that most of the defensive linemen playing major, college football will be as big as he is, so he’s not satisfied.

“I felt good at 330, but I wanted to lose some more (weight) and put more muscle on,” Henry said. “The biggest adjustment will be facing guys at pretty much the same size every day, but I need and want to be pushed.”

That desire for improvement and work ethic is another area in which Henry was attracted to Ohio State. Obviously, he’d love to play as much and as early in his career as possible. But, obviously the Buckeyes are recruiting at a very high level, so there’s more than plenty of competition for positions. Day has said many times that players don’t come to Ohio State unless they want to compete.

Henry is well aware of that, too. Actually, he admitted he’d be okay with taking a red shirt if that’s what the coaching staff thinks is best for his development.

The chance for development — as a player — was one of many selling points for Henry.

Being a fan and being a player are much different. When Henry sat down to take an in-depth look at Ohio State’s program, the opportunity was simply too good to turn down.

“It’s the best of the best at Ohio State,” Henry said. “Whether it’s the academics, the trainers, coaches, facilities and everything involved, I honestly couldn’t expect anything more from a college.”

Since the Red Devils’ playoff games will be staged on Friday nights this year, Henry plans to visit for another game later in the season, but wasn’t sure which one.

Though he signs in December, Henry won’t enroll at OSU until June. He plans to play basketball this winter.

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