Nebraska Huskers Football: The Ballad of Alex Henery

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Nebraska Huskers Football: The Ballad of Alex Henery
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Alex Henery's career as a kicker at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is over. 

However, the scrawny, oft-goateed player whose leg had the power of an anti-aircraft gun and the precision of a sniper from point-blank range's legacy will remain for quite a while.

While his shoes on the turf might have been goofy looking—as kickers' often are—they will be insanely hard to fill. 

Imagine for a moment, if you will, campus before Henery walked on at Nebraska in 2007.  The program was at a turning point, was about to stumble drunkenly into the final year B.C. (Botched by Callahan), and had no place at all for the term "cool" to be even placed in the same paragraph as the word "kicker."

It's not that Jordan Congdon wasn't serviceable during his tenure at Nebraska in the year preceding Henery's time.  He had a good first year and was voted a freshman All-American by ESPN and several other sources.

Then, like virtually every other aspect of Nebraska's program in the mid-to-late 2000s, he turned out to be fool's gold.

He kicked five field goals his sophomore year, never getting one from farther out than a high school kicker could manage and left the team in 2006. 

He wasn't the only thing that left Nebraska's team in 2006, however.  We promptly lost our dignity as well.

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Enter Alex Henery. 

A soccer star at Omaha Burke high school who walked onto the football in 2007 looking like a potential backup to Texas high school kicker Adi Kunalic, who received a scholarship.

As the season progressed, Henery's accuracy couldn't be denied.  While Kunalic had a massive leg, it was Henery's ability to surgically drill kick after kick and PAT after PAT that eventually secured him the job.  He was the Doogie Houser of college kicking—a young, insanely gifted player whose genius was quickly made clear.  Except he was straight.

Perhaps more important than Henery's records—he's about an extra point shy of a "crap-load"—or more crucial than his awards—again, "crap-load"—was the impact Henery had on the entire football program.

Think that's an exaggeration?

Then let's look at the less-statistically driven things Henery brought to a team in the midst of a gigantic transition.  The Huskers have been, for the past few seasons, like the really ugly middle school girl who suddenly hits high school and turns into a certifiable "10" on the hotness scale. 

She doesn't really know what she's doing, still stumbles occasionally when around really attractive dudes (big games, in this case) and has trouble realizing her potential because she's just not quite sure of herself yet.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Henery was her friend texting her during those 2 a.m. girl talks saying, "No, girl...you are, like, so HOT!"

(*Author's note: At least these are the kinds of conversations I imagine girls having at 2 a.m.  It's truly amazing I have a fiancée.)

Henery was Nebraska's potential realized.  He was a crutch for the program when we were gimping along after having our kneecaps crushed by Bill Callahan, mob style.  He was more than a security blanket—he was an armed guard standing outside your house with an AK-47 and a team of Rottweilers trained to go for intruders' jugulars.

Quite simply, Alex Henery was our best, most consistent player.  He didn't miss.  It just didn't happen.  His career average for field-goal accuracy was 91.5 percent.

Stop for a moment and let those inanely high digits wash over your brain.  He missed one field goal in his career from 40-49 yards out.  Congdon's career long at Nebraska was 40 yards.

Henery specialized in a position that fans don't want to see on the field.  But we still wanted to see him on the field.  Never before in my life have I heard such a buzz as when Alex Henery stepped out onto the field and prepared to boot a long one.  Against Oklahoma, fans were screaming at Bo to let Henery try a 55-yard field goal during a heated game in which field position was the penultimate goal. 

To this day, Henery's seminal moment was when he stepped onto the field during the fourth quarter in a game against Colorado in 2008.  A sophomore at the time, and with a previous long of 39 yards to his name, he had apparently convinced Bo he could make the longest field goal in school history. 

As he prepared to kick it, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Was he really about to try a 57-yarder?  Had Bo been huffing glue during the entire fourth quarter?

Nebraska was down one point and with 1:50 seconds to go.  Henery calmly hammered the ball so hard I'm shocked the laces didn't fly off the ball and the pigskin didn't immediately fry into pork rinds.  He canned it and the stadium literally exploded.  That's the only sound I have to compare it to. 

It sounded like a two-ton bomb of unadulterated lunacy had been detonated.

After I got done shaking people, screaming and holding my girlfriend over my shoulder (author's note: she was high-fiving people three rows back from us, which in the Chris Hatch dictionary would be filed under "Define: keeper") like a raiding Viking pillaging a village.

I vowed then and there to forever hold Alex in a special level of esteem.

One final note that, to me, best defines how popular Alex Henery was in Lincoln.  One of my good friends from high school bumped into Henery in a bar in Lincoln.  And I mean literally ran into him.  They almost got into a fight and for whatever reason they narrowly avoided throwing down.

I decided that I would've been more angry with my friend.  Even if he'd lost the fight.

 

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