CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — New Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry is coming into the season with a brand new inspiration.
“Not only was it my first fall camp as a defensive coordinator but it was my first fall camp as a father,” Henry said on Friday.
The first time defensive coordinator and his Camille rushed to the hospital at 3 a.m. on Sunday to welcome daughters Harlow and Dakota to the world.
“I got a whole new motivation and drive,” Henry said. “I thought I was a pretty motivated person, but being able to see, I can’t believe that they’re here.”
On the field, Henry will have no lack of defensive minds to lean on in his first season calling plays, with three former DCs on staff, including Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard, who joined the Illini as a senior analyst last month.
“I’ve always been about the room, and just trying to manage that,” Henry added. “We have some awesome dudes in the room, no ego guys. So it’s made my job really, really easy.”
The former defensive backs coach has his big break after leading a talented secondary under current Purdue head coach Ryan Walters. But Henry isn’t going to rock the boat, keeping things similar to the team that finished No. 1 in total defense last season allowing just 12.8 points per game.
“Coach Henry was definitely my position coach at first and turned into the coordinator,” Illinois sophomore Xavier Scott said. “But he still plays the same role. The only thing that’s different is he’s just calling the plays, that’s all.”
“I don’t feel like we’re starting over at all,” added Henry. “I think we’ve got a really solid core group of older guys that understand what we’re trying to get done from a schematic standpoint. Just because we had guys drafted, the standard and expectation will not change.”
And with two new cheerleaders on the sideline, Henry is catching up on sleep, but keeping the defense rolling in the same direction as they look to back up an outstanding 2022.