I recently caught up with Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Chad Henne for an interview at the first annual John Gilmore/Chad Henne All-Star Weekend Youth Football Clinic at Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pennsylvania.
The proceeds from the weekend and the Gilmore/Henne Community Fund will be used to improve recreational facilities around Berks County (Pennsylvania) and to provide scholarships for local high school students. Please visit www.bccf.org for more details.
Henne and I talked about a range of topics including his continued development as a quarterback, the upcoming Dolphins season, and of course, the importance of his community efforts. Without further ado here is the interview:
Question: What do you need to do to get yourself from starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, which is already amazing, to an elite level quarterback? What do you think is the next step for Chad Henne?
Answer: During the off-season, I have really studied myself. (I'm) working on making better decisions in certain situations. Being more accurate with the ball. Overall, I've got to get more reps and keep on getting better and just keep improving out on the field.
Question: Brandon Marshall comes in this offseason, a well-known, talented wide receiver. What does he bring to a quarterback?
Answer: He has the size definitely. He has the speed and I think most of all he has the experience. He has proven in the league that he can make big plays, do things with the ball that normal receivers can't. He's definitely quarterback friendly.
Question: Do you just gravitate to a guy like that as a quarterback? Do you say the first day that he is out there in practice, "Wow, look at him?" Or does it take a process of trust that you have built up with some of the other receivers?
Answer: Oh, definitely it’s going to take time. You have to get the timing down. You have to get the anticipation down. You have to know how he is going to run a route. It's going to take down. We've been working on it in the offseason. Definitely, with training camp coming up.
Question: Looking back at your career, you competed here (at Wilson High School) and quickly won the starting job. Day one, you are thrust in as a starter at Michigan. Then, you are thrust into action when Chad Pennington goes down with injury. Are you always ready for the opportunity when it comes, or has it been a shock to your system every opportunity you have gotten?
Answer: I try to prepare for every opportunity that is presented and take advantage of it. Being thrown into those situations, I have learned through the years that I always have to be ready. I always have to be prepared to go out there and play to the best of my ability and try to make the team win.
Question: You have had the same left tackle (Jake Long) for about seven years now. What benefit or sense of comfort does that give you?
Answer: Oh, it’s great. We have a great relationship. I had four years in college with him and now three in Miami. Obviously, there is a comfort level that I know he is going to protect my back and always do the right thing. He has been to two Pro Bowls in the first two years of his career. It shows what kind of player he is, but I think he is more of a person than a player. I can always trust him back there.
Question: Are you ever going to catch a pass out of the Wildcat?
Answer: (Laughs) No.
Question: Do you hate the thing (The Wildcat formation, since it takes Henne out from under center or off the field entirely)?
Answer: Oh no. It's good. It's made our offense go and helps out our running game.
Question: But as a quarterback rhythm is very important. Do you feel it affects that?
Answer: No, we prepare, we practice that way. I'm used to it.
Question: So, you are used to jogging off the field (for a play) and then coming back in?
Answer: Yeah, yeah. Sometimes.
Question: You'd like to air it out more often, right?
Answer: Sure. The Wildcat is just part of our offense, just like the running game. You can't throw it every down.
Question: The Miami media can be kind of brutal, well all media can. The owner comes out and says, "Chad Henne is going to be the best Miami Dolphins quarterback ever." Who puts more pressure on Chad Henne? You or them?
Answer: Oh me, definitely. I don't read any of the press clippings. I kind of stay in my own little world. I'm worried about what I can do and worried about the team. I'm more worried about being a team player more than anybody predicting or saying things about me. It’s a team sport; it's not about one person.
Question: Chad Henne is going to be happy this year as a Miami Dolphin if he does what? Or the team does what?
Answer: Well, its starts with game one. I can't predict what's going to happen, but we have high expectations. We have a good team coming out. I think we go into it, (hoping) we win the division, or we get into the playoffs. Every time we go out there, we're just worried about one game at a time. The more wins we get, the better off we're going to be. I'll be happy sitting there with a lot of wins underneath our belts and going into the playoffs.
Question: What does this (All-Star Weekend) mean to you?
Answer: It's a great opportunity for everybody to come out and support us (the Gilmore/Henne Community Fund). We have a lot of kids out here. So hopefully, we gave them some inspiration and good fundamentals. Overall, it's just a lot of fun for them to come.
Question: I know that John and you have put a lot of time into this. Why this particular cause? Why Berks County?
Answer: This is where we both grew up. This is where we learned as kids how to become good young men. Credit to our parents, but these are our parks. This is where we learned to play sports and this where we want to give back. You could go to our professional football communities and sure we'd raise some money, but there is nothing like going back home and really supporting our community.
Question: Does an event like this bring back a flood of memories?
Answer: Definitely. I think what is great about our school is that they are well represented. They bring guys back. (Long-time NFL quarterback) Kerry Collins came back when he was in the draft. I think that Wilson School District does a wonderful job with youths, especially getting youth camps out here.
A couple of quick notes: Henne was more than accommodating for this interview and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank him for his time. He is getting married in a week and Dolphin fans will probably be impressed to know that he is postponing his honeymoon until next year in order to get ready for the season.
Thanks also go out to Eric Wise, the Owner and President of Premier Athletic Performance and Sarah MacAusland of the Berks County Community Foundation for making the interview possible.