‘Naturally gifted’ Chris Henry Jr. just wants to ‘live up to my dad’s legacy’

Chris Henry, Jr.

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Chris Henry, Jr.

Son of late Bengals receiver earns rave reviews

UNION TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Chris Henry Jr. watches highlights of his late father every day.

Chris Jr., a wide receiver himself, is an incoming freshman at West Clermont High School.

The resemblance between him and his late father is something to behold.

“I like to watch his West Virginia (games),” Chris Jr. said. “Those are my favorite. When I watch him it’s like we run the same, catch the same — it’s crazy.”

Chris Jr. has received a crazy amount of attention months before even playing in his first high school game.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound 14 years old’s size, speed, athleticism and football IQ have earned him a spotlight from some of the nation’s top college football programs — including scholarship offers (yes, real offers) at some big-time schools.

Chris Jr. ran a 4.57 in the 40-yard dash at The Ohio State University June 4 and earned a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes.

He has also received offers from the likes of Penn State, West Virginia, Grambling State, Akron, Connecticut, Marshall and South Florida. There has also been interest from the University of Cincinnati and Michigan.

Henry said he understands the spotlight he’s under but prefers to wait until his senior year of high school before making a college decision.

“I just, like, kind of forget about it,” Henry said of the recruiting attention. “I know I have it but I still got to keep on working and get better every day.”

If the scholarship offers weren’t enough, Henry earned an invitation to the 2026 Under Armour All-America Game — a rare opportunity for someone who has yet to start high school.

West Clermont coach Nate Mahon had high compliments for Chris Jr. in just his initial summer workouts.

“He absorbs a lot of information,” Mahon said. “He doesn’t say a lot but he’s always listening. He’s wise beyond his years with his football intelligence.”

Mahon feels the spotlight, too.

“He’s done everything right so far which has been really nice,” Mahon said. “Certainly, he’s got a lot of exposure on his own. What he means to our team, he brings another set of eyes and exposure on a different level that we can all use.”

There are times when West Clermont offensive coordinator Dee Alston is reminded of his late college teammate when he watches Henry run a route and catch a pass. That would be reinforced this season if Chris Jr. decides to wear No. 15, the number his father wore.

The West Clermont coaches said Chris Jr. inherited his father’s competitiveness and work ethic on the football field.

“Sometimes I see Chris (Jr.) in my peripheral and I have to take a double-take because it looks exactly like his father,” said Alston, who also serves as West Clermont’s assistant head coach.

Alston played football at West Virginia with the Henry and former Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who told Shannon Sharpe he adopted Chris Jr. and his younger brother, DeMarcus, an eighth-grade wide receiver at West Clermont Middle School.

Alston coached Chris Jr. and DeMarcus at Withrow Junior High School last season, where Chris wore jersey No. 1 and DeMarcus wore No. 5 in tribute to their late father.

“We just wanted to contribute to our dad,” Chris Jr. said. “We couldn’t choose whoever wanted 15 so we just made it work.”

Chris Jr. was 2 when his father died Dec. 17, 2009 after he left the back of a pickup truck in Charlotte, N.C. The incident was later ruled an accident in 2010 by the Mecklenburg County medical examiner’s office.

Henry spent five seasons in the NFL, all with the Bengals. When he joined Cincinnati in 2005, he played alongside one of the best wide receiving corps in the league with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

More than a decade after his father’s death, Henry Jr. is on a mission on the football field. His coaches say his vision is sharp and his determination is firm.

He said he appreciates those who’ve supported him — from coaches and teammates to Jones, who he calls ‘Uncle Pac,’ and of course, his mother Leini Tonga and grandmother Carolyn Henry Glaspy.

The family pedigree runs deep: Chris Jr.’s sister, Seini Hicks, is a 2024 forward on the West Clermont girls’ basketball team and has scholarship offers from UC, Xavier and Dayton among others.

College recruiting attention will certainly continue for the family. Football is the present and the future for Chris Henry Jr.

“It’s life for him,” Alston said. “It’s something he’s dead set on doing. He wakes up every day and he gets at it. His goal is to get better each and every day and he shows that.”

Chris Jr. has a list of goals that he keeps in his room, reading them every day and crossing them off along the way.

He has a 3.5 grade-point average and would like to lead the Wolves in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season while helping the team improve from a 2-9 record in 2021.

The goal he wants to cross off the most? Playing in the NFL.

“It’s really important to live up to my dad’s legacy,” Henry said. “I think about it a lot when I’m on the field.

“I think he would be pretty proud of me right now, to see where I am.”

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