Henery the Ace

NU kicker Alex Henery is happy with the path he chose

Consider the opening stanza of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; At the risk of being a bit too philosophical, Alex Henery once contemplated divergent roads, though unlike Frost’s narrator, he didn’t take the road less traveled. Nevertheless, the one he chose has certainly made all the difference in his athletic career. It has not made a difference in his personality, however. He’s still the same Alex who chose walking on to the Nebraska football team over accepting a soccer scholarship from Creighton. His success as a place-kicker, and the last two seasons as a punter, hasn’t changed him. “You hope people will remember you more for your character and who you are, rather than what you did,” Henery says. “You want to be remembered for the person you are than for something you do. That means more to you and will stick with you.” Husker fans will remember him more for what he’s done, of course. It’s almost impossible to know those who are viewed from a distance, on a football field, in a large stadium. They’ll remember him because there has never been a better kicker to wear Husker gear. He already has kicked more field goals in a season and a career than any other. And as his senior season winds down, he has put himself in position to break as many as five NCAA career place-kicking records. In addition, it’s fitting that Henery’s final home game is against Colorado the day after Thanksgiving. Two years ago against the Buffaloes, on the day after Thanksgiving, Henery became a celebrity, kicking a school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 remaining. Had he done nothing more, he would still be remembered. People would approach him at the grocery store or on the street and ask him for an autograph, maybe. In any case, Ndamukong Suh would follow, less than a minute later, with an interception return for a touchdown, which made the final score 40-31, Nebraska. But had Henery not kicked the 57-yarder, his fourth field goal of the game, the Huskers almost surely would have lost. Without his record kick, Bo Pelini’s first team would have finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. And there’s a significant difference between 7-5 and 8-4. The Huskers earned a Gator Bowl bid, beat Clemson (Henery again kicked four field goals), and the Pelini era was off to a strong start. “I learned a lot about his fortitude after that,” Pelini said of the 57-yarder during his weekly news conference on the Tuesday before the Missouri game. Two years later, as Nebraska prepared for the pivotal game in the Big 12’s North Division race, the subject came up. “What I really learned about him was that in a situation like that, he has the same ho-hum attitude that he always has,” says Pelini. “He’s really calm. He has a really good knack for directing his focus and being calm and going out there and approaching every situation the same way. “There’s really not a lot of people who can do that.” Henery explains it in terms of character. “A lot of people don’t have the mental stability to do that, and they’ll have their highs and lows,” he says. “I try to keep myself constant.” He was that way when he arrived at Nebraska, expecting to be a punter, not a place-kicker. “I feel that’s kind of important, (that) your friends know who you are, your family knows who you are, you’re not high one day and low the other day,” Henery says. He’ll complete his degree in construction management in December, and then have an opportunity to continue kicking in the NFL, a realistic career option now, but not something he considered when he decided to take the road he did. Had he gone the other direction, well, he doesn’t think much about that. He’s not inclined to wonder “What if?” But suppose he had gone to Creighton to play soccer? “I think it would have been fun,” he said. “I was pretty good friends with the coaches there and knew a bunch of the guys there. But I’m kind of happy how things worked out here.”

posted at 06:20 pm
on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

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