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Prove It: K.J. Henry

The former top-ranked prospect has been through two years of development on the defensive line and is now focused on attacking each day to get better.
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Before coming to Clemson, defensive end K.J. Henry was the No. 6 player in the nation by ESPN. Being a top-ranked prospect out of high school comes with added pressures to perform early and often as a freshman. 

That was something that didn't happen for Henry, as he played only 39 snaps in four games before personally asking to be redshirted his freshman year. 

Henry said that he didn't feel any pressure at all, and that coach Dabo Swinney gave him some sound advice back in 2018.

K.J. Henry

K.J. Henry

"There’s no pressure at all," said Henry. "It’s just not something that we worry about. A lot of those people are going to make those critiques and those comments who haven’t ever played the game and have never played at this level. Coach Swinney says that I wouldn’t take criticism from someone who I wouldn’t take advice from. I think we take that to heart." 

"It’s all about who is in our corner, who is in our room and that’s who’s trying to help make us better. This is not an easy game and it’s not built for everybody but we know we are making strides in the right direction."

His decision paid off as he played a much bigger role on the Clemson defensive line in 2019. 

He was credited with 22 tackles and two sacks, one of which was in the first game of the season against Georgia Tech. It was that first sack in his Clemson career that he says was his biggest accomplishment last season.

"You gotta start somewhere," Henry said. "I’d definitely say Georgia Tech and starting it off right was one of my biggest moments in 2019."

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Henry's mindset had been one of reflection, acceptance and patience. 

This year he is focused on having an attacking mindset.

"I try to control what I can control and have an attack mindset and trying to improve on the things that I get critiqued on every single day," Henry said. "It's my third year, it starts with the mindset. That’s really what I've been trying to focus on every day come out with the right mindset. Knowing that everybody's days are numbered and attacking each day and trying to get better."

Having the right mindset is the most important thing for coach Swinney. He carries around a sign that simply says "believe." He also has been quoted saying "to be an overachiever, you have to be an over-believer."

K.J. Henry (5)

K.J. Henry (5)

It's rare that greatness is given to someone. Most people have to work hard and believe in themselves to be the best version of themself. Henry feels that he is learning to have more confidence each week and that having self-confidence will help him make the plays he needs to in 2020.

"I’d say I grew the most confidence-wise from last year," said Henry. "Obviously it is a week to week thing. If I don’t have confidence in myself then I won’t make any plays. Going through last season from beginning to end my confidence grew and my teammates had more confidence in me and that helped me play a lot better too. I think my confidence affects how you play and how fast you play." 

With his newfound confidence, Henry is also ready to step into a leadership role for the Tigers. He is going into the spring making sure he is more vocal, confident and makes sure there is consistent communication on the defensive line throughout the season.

"I enjoy the leadership role that I have," Henry said. "Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always talking. I feel like that I’ve been a leader ever since I was young but I wasn’t necessarily as vocal my first couple of years. It’s definitely something that I’m used to. I’m very confident now with it being my third year. The communication has really been the biggest thing. Communication on a day-to-day basis and making sure we are all on the same page."