Brighton Memories Close to Henson's Heart
By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com
November 7, 2017
Drew Henson admits he'll still sneak an occasional peak at the record book.
After 20 years and professional careers in two sports, a quick glance isn't about vanity for Henson. The former Brighton football and baseball star said he's simply curious whether his myriad records are withstanding the test of time.
"Sometimes somebody will send me (a link), and I'll look to see if anybody is getting close," Henson said. "I've got to see who is coming up."
Henson, 37, graduated from Brighton in 1998 having set 11 major hitting records, eight of which he still holds 20 years later. He's also noted among the state football record setters after throwing for 5,662 yards and 52 touchdowns during his Bulldogs career. Twice he threw for more than 2,000 yards in a season during an era right before spread offenses made doing so a much more regular occurrence. In addition, he was a standout basketball player as well at Brighton and his class’ valedictorian.
In baseball, Henson is still the all-time career leader in hits (257), doubles (68), home runs (70), grand slams (10) and RBI (290). The 70 homers is 23 more than those hit by any other Michigan high school player, including eventual major leaguers such as Nate McLouth (Whitehall), Ryan LaMarre (Jackson Lumen Christi) and Zach Putnam (Ann Arbor Pioneer). Henson drove in at least 78 runs every season sophomore through senior years. He's the state's all-time leader in RBI by 87. He also continues to hold national high school records for career RBI and grand slams.
Henson's senior baseball season is unquestionably the best ever amassed by a Michigan prep player. He set single-season records with 22 homers and 83 RBI, batted .605 and went 14-2 as a pitcher, including appearing in an MHSAA tournament game in which he struck out 20 of 21 batters, allowing batters to make contact with a pitch only twice.
Now living in Tampa, Fla., Henson he still views the records the same way he did before he departed to play quarterback at University of Michigan and then eventually sign $3.5 and $17 million contracts with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, respectively. Henson, who once fielded ground balls beside Derek Jeter and battled Tom Brady for a starting job, played on four Brighton baseball teams that averaged about 30 wins per year.
"A lot of factors created those opportunities for me. You don't set records like that without playing on a good team with good teammates," he said.
"We were a good hitting team from one through nine in the order. Our goal was to try and win state every year. I wouldn't have hit the homers or driven in the runs every year without my teammates. I have a lot of vivid memories of high school that are near and dear to my heart."
Former Brighton coach Mark Carrow said it's no surprise to him that Henson still owns the record book two decades after graduating. Carrow said Henson was the perfect blend of work ethic and natural talent.
"I coached for 34 years, and he was without question the best player I ever saw," Carrow said. "From the time he came to us as a freshman, it took one look at him throwing or one look hitting to know he was special.
"If there was a checklist for what you wanted in a baseball or football player, he checked the top of the box every time. He could throw 97, 98 (mph) and he could hit. He could dominate a game."
Carrow said the records are even more remarkable when you consider Henson every season would draw more than 40 walks, many intentional.
"Scouts used to come to the games, and I mean teams' top scouts," Carrow said. "And they'd say Drew was as good as they had ever seen."
Henson’s parents both were Division I college athletes, and his father Dan coached football at four Division I programs. Still, Drew’s dual sport professional career nearly took a different path as a youngster. While Henson started playing T-ball as a 5-year-old, his first love during his preteen years was basketball. Henson didn't play his first competitive football game until the eighth grade.
Considering he had interests in virtually every sport and at least in part because his father was a football coach, Henson thought of himself as a "gym rat" growing up. He would tag along to his father's practices, devour box scores in the paper and prop himself in front of the television on fall afternoons.
Much of high school athletics today is focused on specialization, but Henson said he never considered narrowing his sports to one. In fact, he encourages his young daughter to play as many sports as she can fit in.
"It never got dull for me," he said. "For a lot of kids today, it's too much for too long. You don't get a mental break. You can start to lose you."
While Henson's high school career was one for the record books, and he helped the Wolverines to a 9-3 record and Cotton Bowl win in 2000, his professional career never took off. He was a third-round draft pick by the Yankees (97th overall) in 1998 and sixth-round pick of the NFL's Houston Texans in 2003.
He stalled at Triple-A in the Yankees system, but did make the major leagues in 2003, singling off the Orioles' Eric DeBose for his only big league hit. He wound up retiring from baseball following the season after hitting .248 with 67 homers and 274 RBI in 501 minor league games. He was 23 years old.
In the NFL, Henson wound up making one start for the Cowboys in 2004 and in 2008 joined the Lions for a season. Henson threw one touchdown pass as a Cowboy, to Jeff Robinson in 2004.
Henson, who in July of 2015 still rated a profile in Sports Illustrated a decade after throwing his final pass in the NFL, has been asked many times about his lack of success in professional sports. Past speculation states he was rushed through the Yankees' chain, while participation in professional baseball may have stunted his football development.
Two decades after leaving Brighton, Henson said he still answers the question of which sport was actually his favorite the same way: with diplomacy.
"I've always said nothing was more fun than to play baseball, but there is also nothing like being in the huddle on the football field," he said. "It's hard to say which I liked more. You can play baseball every day, but you can only play football once a week."
The one regret Henson may harbor has to do with patience. If he had to do it all over again, Henson said he'd force himself to slow down and enjoy the process. Henson said he often felt he had to play catch-up in both sports.
"I would tell my younger self to have more patience. There were so many opportunities after my junior year (of college) that would have still been there as a senior," he said. "Because of that I wish I would've had more patience and let the process play out."
Henson said his message to youngsters who face the same challenge is simple.
"Society is so go, go, go," he said. "You just have to learn to hit the pause button. If you're always on to the next thing, you're not embracing the moment. I wish I had done more of that.
"If you like to work and put in the time, you can be successful. All that goes into it. If you have the heart and desire and pay attention to detail, you will be successful."
PHOTOS: (Top) Drew Henson starred during the fall at Brighton’s quarterback. (Middle) Henson struck out 20 of 21 batters he faced in a 1997 game against Walled Lake Western. (Below) Henson also was a basketball standout, averaging 22 points per game according to a Sports Illustrated profile published in 1998. (Football and basketball photos courtesy of Brighton High School).
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)