CINCINNATI – Really, the nearly 500 days between when Darrion Henry-Young received his Ohio State offer and when he committed were a mere formality. Well before then, he had made the decision that he’d play football in Columbus.
Henry-Young no longer knows the exact date of the trip. He doesn’t know what exactly he did in Columbus. But at some point in the winter after his sophomore season, Henry-Young took his first visit to Columbus, getting a taste of the Ohio State football program and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
To say he came away impressed would be a grave understatement.
“I ain't gonna lie,” Henry-Young told Eleven Warriors on Wednesday. “I went to a couple of schools, but when I went there I knew for sure after I got the offer that was probably going to be the place I was going to go just off of how coach J reacts to the players and how he is as a person. I just knew that was the place. I was just waiting it out, really.”
He waited, and he waited, and he continued to wait.
Henry-Young, who hyphenated his last name to add his father's surname in the summer, originally received his scholarship offer from Johnson and the Buckeyes on Feb. 19, 2018. Not until June 29, though, did he do the inevitable and announce his commitment to Ohio State. Finally, years since he knew where he’d end up, he inked his National Letter of Intent at a public signing along with eight of his classmates, including fellow Buckeyes signee Paris Johnson, at Princeton High School on Wednesday afternoon.
“They're getting a gifted athlete with some natural pass-rushing ability, and he's got a dog to him,” Princeton coach Mike Daniels said. “With his upbringing, where he's from, he's a Zone 15, Lincoln Heights kid. Same place where I grew up, same place Spencer Ware with the Chiefs, same place Thayer Munford with Ohio State. You go on and on and on with the guys from there. Got a chip on his shoulder.
“He is the community's son. He grew up in this community. He played his little league in this community. He's played his basketball in this community. And now he's going to The Ohio State. They're getting a motivated talent that is gifted, that is extremely gifted.”
As Daniels also noted, Henry-Young has an atypical background for somebody of his filled-out stature and status as a coveted defensive line prospect.
“I've seen them, so I'm hoping not to be shocked. I think I'm made for it. Just hard work, take it day by day and get better.”– Darrion Henry-Young on Ohio State's winter workouts
Right now, he’s a 6-foot-5, 255-pound brute of a defensive end. But growing up, Henry-Young strayed from the defensive line in favor of running back. Looking back, he compares himself to a miniature version of Tennessee Titans ball carrier Derrick Henry. When he wasn’t carrying the ball, he concentrated on the hardwood. After an injury in seventh grade on the football field, he gave up the sport to solely play basketball, and by eighth grade, he had developed into arguably the top player within the state of Ohio.
At the time, his athletic future appeared to possibly lie in the world of basketball.
“That was the goal at first, then I shrunk,” Henry-Young said with a smile.
As high school began, he returned to the football field, this time as a stout defensive end.
“Football, I became a little natural, so it was not hard coming back to it,” Henry-Young said.
Its official. Darrion Henry is a Buckeye. pic.twitter.com/3sdwitnEBa— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) December 18, 2019
The more than a dozen power conference schools that offered him scholarships in the next couple years must have agreed with that assessment. Johnson, noticing the power and movement from the well-built lineman, certainly did.
And even before Henry-Young announced his commitment in late June, Johnson was coaching him a bit from afar.
While on his official visit a week ahead of the decision, Johnson told him he had another choice to make. Henry-Young had put on a bit too much unnecessary weight while sitting out due to a shoulder surgery last December that kept him out of full action until July. He was all the way up to 275 pounds, and Johnson let him know that his future position was at stake.
“He pretty much told me, really, it'd (depend) on me,” Henry-Young said. “If I come in overweight, then I'm going to play D-tackle. But if not, I'm going to continue to play D-end.”
That did the trick.
In a press release distributed by Ohio State to the media on Wednesday, Henry-Young was listed at 279 pounds. In reality, he says, he’s all the way back down to 255 pounds. The gut that he had developed while “sitting on the couch for six months” is no longer present. At a more trim yet still sturdy weight, he’s now slotted to play what he sees as his natural position of defensive end.
“If you watch film, I don't play D-tackle,” Henry-Young said.
As long as his weight remains in check, he’ll be back at defensive end in Columbus. The next step? Enrolling early in just a couple weeks and beginning winter workouts.
“I've seen them, so I'm hoping not to be shocked,” Henry-Young said. “I think I'm made for it. Just hard work, take it day by day and get better.”