By Chaz Bolte AFCNT.com Writer (Originally published on December 18th, 2009)
On December 17th, 2009 Chris Henry, Bengals wide receiver, died after being thrown from a truck driven by his fiancé outside of Charlotte, N.C. We don’t yet know the exact facts of the incident but it has been reported that he was thrown from the truck during a domestic dispute. It is a tragic ending to a career that was blemished by off the field incidents and legal run ins. His 5 year career ended with 119 receptions for 1826 yards and 21 touchdowns. That is the final line. In 20 years when this incident is looked back upon it will be with different eyes than those that will watch the facts unfold in the upcoming weeks. History cannot be rewritten. The fact is Chris Henry was a young man with the athletic potential to be a hall of fame calibur receiver who allowed his personal life to destroy any chances of reaching it. That is what happens in life. if you cannot control your personal life you cannot succeed in your professional life. Henry was arrested 5 times during his NFL career for various acts including
DUI, Marijuana possession, assault, and criminal damage.
The story was always the same, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he allowed himself to be in those situations. To think Henry was never given a second chance is foolish. He was given more chances than any other person would be simply because he could catch a football. You should not speak poorly of the deceased, but you also shouldn’t rewrite history. His actions were his own. No one put a gun to Chris Henry’s head and forced him to assault a valet attendant in Kentucky in 2007. He made that choice on his own along with the rest of the decisions that put him in the position he was in.
What will be Chris Henry’s legacy? Will people say that he was unfairly treated and was an excellent player or will they say that 119 receptions for 1826 yards and 21 touchdowns is a legendary year in the NFL but a below average 5 year career? When people die their shortcomings are often erased and we only remember the positive. If Rich Rodriguez, Henry’s college coach at WVU, speaks about him in the upcoming days will he say he was a great man? Because during Henry’s senior year at WVU Rodriguez labeled Henry as, “an embarrassment to himself and the program.”
I’m not saying that the death of Chris Henry isn’t tragic. He was a young man, months younger than me, who left behind a family and a future. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be mourned because athletes are more than statistics or lists of charges, they are real people just like you and me. I’m not saying that there aren’t people he touched in a positive way or positive things he did during his short time on earth. In the upcoming days people will be telling those exact stories. What I’m saying is that we have to have a realistic view of what Chris Henry’s legacy will be. To me his legacy should be that his life was proof that no matter how talented you are and no matter how liked by people you are if you live your life in the manner that he did and allow your personal life to affect your professional life you will not succeed. Putting aside the religious aspects of death when you die you are only left with people’s memory of what you did with your life. Let’s not lie to ourselves to make the story better. At the time of his death he was an average wide receiver who had the athletic potential to be in the upper echelon of all time NFL receiver’s, but allowed his personal life from keeping him to living up to it.
About the Author: Chaz Bolte is a 2008 Graduate of Slippery Rock Uinversity of Pennsylvania where he earned a B.S. in Communication ~ Emerging Technolgy and Multimedia. At SRU he served as host of the weekly sports show “Pittsburgh Talk” on WSRU~TV and as host of “The Chaz Bolte Radio Hour” on WRSK 88.1 FM. He is the Director of Broadcast and New Media for the Pittsburgh Phantoms of the American Basketball Association.