Earlier this week, before we knew about Henry's position switch to safety, J and I talked on the phone and thought it'd be good to give a tip of the cap to Rob Henry and Sean Robinson...but in the wake of tonight's news it's especially poignant to honor both of these guys.
There are lots of guys who have switched positions on this team...and many of them are Seniors, but no two players have been more visible and handled the switches with more grace and class than Henry and Robinson.
QB Sean Robinson runs the belly option with interim RB Rob Henry in 2010
Let's hop on the way-back machine, shall we.
Back in 2010, After Marve blew his ACL for the second time, and as TerBush couldn't play due to academic problems, Henry became the starting quarterback. It definitely wasn't Danny Hope's plan to have him play that early, but Henry did what was asked valiantly, even though he wasn't a great passer. His signature game was a bit of a shocker as Purdue handed Northwestern their first loss of that season. Henry completed just 33% of his passes for 47 yards, but ran for 132 and a TD. After another win versus a bad Minnesota team, Henry's index finger on his throwing hand was mangled in a facemask versus aOSU. Robinson burnt his redshirt in mop-up duty in the blowout at the hands of the 'Nuts...and started the next week v. Illinois with less-than-stellar results.
I remember talking to Sean's Dad after that Illinois game; he lamented how this wasn't really the plan, but Sean was making the best of it as he tried to learn all he could.
Henry took the starting role back the next week versus Wisconsin and began wearing a glove on his throwing hand to protect the fingertip that was torn up weeks earlier.
You could tell at that point that Henry was the best leader on the roster for the Boilers. His teammate responded well to his toughness and his demeanor in the huddle.
The following season, Robinson was buried on the QB depth chart. Henry's finger was healthy, so he was with the ones heading into camp. As Marve was on the mend, he was the second-stringer and TerBush worked his way out of the dog house at third string...Robinson was fourth. #10 used the redshirt that he burnt the previous season.
Heading into '12, the logjam at QB was apparent...A healthier Marve and TerBush battled for the first spot, and a recovering Rob Henry was third string as his ACL heeled from an injury just days prior to Purdue's first game in '11. In the Spring, Robinson had met with Hope and asked where he was needed and how he could be used...so he had bulked up to play on the other side of the ball at LB.
I think many, myself included thought that he wouldn't see the field too much...but due to injuries and poor depth, Robinson was a starting LB in the second half of 2012. At the same time, Marve and TerBush jockeyed back and fourth in Hope's QB roulette...Henry stayed on the field as an RB, slot receiver and wildcat QB.
This season, Robinson and Henry have both had rough years...but they continue to do exactly what coaches ask them to do, regardless of whom is their positional coach OR head coach. They've been great teammates and great team guys.
Robinson took over as the player many Boiler fans have loved to hate from Joe Holland. Neither Holland nor Robinson were in great positions to succeed...and I still don't think the beating they took and take from fans was or is warranted. Robinson continues to bust his ass at LB; he's nowhere near the protypical B1G linebacker, but he's a lunch pail guy that has earned my respect- he drastically changed his body as he packed on a ton of weight to stand the rigors of a smashmouth conference...and he's been durable in his role on defense. It's a damned good thing too- Danny Hope seemed to neglect the LB and DE positions during recruiting for some reason...and the dearth of bodies there has left Purdue's defense in a wretched lurch. A lurch that Robinson has had to endure with that corps for two seasons.
On the other side of the ball, Henry has struggled passing, but has done nothing but take responsibility for his mistakes. He's lead, just as he did his RS Freshman season, in a manner that garnered the respect of his teammates and coaches, even as many fans don't quite get it. I've never been on the bandwagon of Henry as a passer, but as an athlete, and more so as a man, it's tough not to like and respect him. Quite simply, he hasn't deserved any of the personal attacks that he's endured from fans in the last few weeks. Earlier tonight Henry did what leaders do- he took another change of position in stride. He'll be on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in his career versus a good Nebraska offense, if all goes well during the bye week. And in doing so, he'll gain more even more respect from the guys who he sweats and bleeds with daily.
I don't bet on the guy having a ton of success at safety, honestly...it's tough to learn a new position in a matter of months, let-alone two weeks. But I won't ever bet against Rob Henry doing something of note after he's done playing football for Purdue because the guy simply does things the right way.
If Henry sticks on defense, Senior day will be pretty poetic for these two book-end ex-QBs. They took different paths to where they are, but they worked extremely hard as Danny Hope, Gary Nord, Tim Tibesar, Darrell Hazell, John Shoop, Marcus Freeman and finally Jon Heacock have moved these guys around and asked them to do a myriad of things to help the team.
Even through the crap that we've watched this season, I still believe that Hazell's teams will be successful, eventually...and even though they'll probably be gone when the tide finally turns for the program, players like Robinson and Henry will have been the foundational stones for the next chapter.
I know Senior Day is a long way away, but here's an early thanks to these two, specifically.