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August 11, 2011

Henry is happy for the chance

Going undrafted in April, former Florida Gators punter Chas Henry was mildly miffed. But when the NFL lockout was lifted and Henry officially became a free agent, things quickly turned around for the 2010 Ray Guy Award winner.

"It happened all of a sudden. I was actually at my girlfriend's house with her just sitting watching TV and all of a sudden I started getting all of these phone calls," he said.

"I knew that free agency was supposed to start up at 10 a.m. the following morning, so I was just trying to figure out my plans for the week before I had to report off to camp. I'm sitting on the couch and all of a sudden my phone starts blowing up with the different area codes and everything, so I'm thinking, 'Something must be going on.'"

What happened was, for the first time in four years, coaches were in pursuit of Henry's services.

Receiving five phone calls in the first two hours of free agency, Henry had plenty of teams in choose from but decided to take a short while to make his decision rather than rush into things and get stuck in a bad situation.

"This is the first time I've ever been recruited and I've had to make a decision like this," he explained. "When I was recruited to Florida, Coach [Urban] Meyer recruited me and he offered me and I committed right there on the spot. [...] I told the coaches this time, 'This is the first time I've ever been recruited, so you have to bear with me a little bit.'"

Though it took him a little longer than others, Henry eventually decided to head for Philadelphia and play for the Eagles, a team with which he thought he could earn a starting job as a rookie.

"I spoke to Coach [Andy] Reid and the general manager up here Howie Roseman - a Florida guy, a great Florida guy up here in Philadelphia," he said. (Roseman has an undergraduate degree from UF.)

"I spoke with them and just really liked everything that they had to offer. I was very excited about the possibility of coming up here to play. There's a couple Florida guys up here with [Cornelius Ingram] and Riley Cooper, and they just told me how much of a great time they've had up here and how they really enjoy the coaching staff and players and everything. I felt like it was the best opportunity for me to come in and be a part of."

With veteran punter Sav Rocca the team's starter in 2010, Henry believed there was a good chance he would not return to the team even though Philadelphia tendered him. Rocca ended up departing as many expected, leaving his old job wide open.

"You almost kind of have to take a gamble on [the team you choose]," he said. "I was confident in my ability and what I could come into and compete against whoever it had to be. I figured they would have to bring somebody into camp anyway regardless of the situation."

As it turns out, Henry is just one of many free agents who ended up deciding to don an Eagles uniform in 2010. In some ways, he signed with the team before it became fashionable to do so.

Since Henry agreed to his deal, Philadelphia landed premier cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and a plethora of other veterans to help them compete for a Super Bowl this year.

"It's just like icing on the cake," Henry explains. "You hear about all of these players who are going to be free agents. Nnamdi wasn't even put out there as far as going to Philadelphia. … I remember we were in the car after lunch, and I went online and saw where Nnamdi had committed to play here and signed with Philadelphia. We got back to the locker room and there was a buzz in the air.

"And from there it just kind of was a snowball effect with Cullen Jenkins coming here and Ronnie Brown. It's really the Michael Vick effect. Michael Vick is one of the nicest guys that I've gotten a chance to talk to - a really nice guy, a great teammate and great team player. He kind of has that effect on everybody where everybody wants to come play with him. He's just such a great guy and a tremendous athlete."

With a trio of former Florida players now donning Philadelphia's midnight green and white, Henry hopes they all can do Gator Nation proud this year.


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