Hennard highlight when he gets ball
You could say Kevin Hennard took the express route to varsity football success.
Which makes perfect sense, given his speed.
Hennard, a senior safety for the Granbury Pirates, did not play football as a freshman or sophomore. But when he returned to the game last season, it was with a vengeance.
Hennard earned unanimous first-team All-District 7-4A honors as a cornerback from coaches in the district. They’d probably chuckle if they knew his reason for skipping the previous two years.
“I started boxing in the ninth grade, and I felt I wasn’t big enough for football,” Hennard said. “But I missed it really bad.”
At 5-10, 160 pounds, Hennard is hardly a giant in physical form. But on the field, no player stands taller or tougher.
He’s a threat to intercept any pass thrown by an opposing quarterback. If not, he’s most likely going to keep his receiver from making the catch – and if a catch is made, he’ll hit him hard enough to make him think otherwise next time.
The latter is one of the reasons he was perfectly fine with the switch to safety.
“Safety gives you more opportunities for tackles and plays,” Hennard said with a devilish smile. “You have more chances for better hits – and the interceptions aren’t too bad.”
And then there’s the kick returns. Through the first three games, Hennard is averaging nearly 40 yards he touches the ball on a kickoff or punt return.
This includes a 61-yard return for a touchdown. He should have three returns for touchdowns, but two others were called back because of penalties.
“As soon as I get the ball, I glance at the field to see what’s open,” said Hennard, simplifying somewhat his return technique.
“Field vision is just something I’ve always had. I’ve been a return man since I played peewee, and I have always had a knack for finding the open field.
“I have pretty quick feet, also, and I like to do jukes on opposing players.”
Granbury head coach Scotty Pugh said Hennard’s return skills also require a certain amount of “just being crazy.”
And he means that in the best way.
“I’ve always said you’ve got to be a little crazy to want to return kicks, but if you’ve got that in you, it is something great,” said Pugh.
“You’re fielding the ball and trying to run while guys on the other team are coming at you full-steam ready to knock your block off. It takes guts.”
And when it works for a touchdown, Hennard said there is no better feeling.
“Oh man, it’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “When you see the end zone and the crowd goes crazy, it’s an incredible rush.
“I think touchdown every time. You’ve got to have that kind of mentality.”
SPEED PROMPTED POSITION MOVE
Pirate defensive coordinator B.J. Carlton said Hennard was moved to safety because his speed allows him to cover more of the field at that position.
“We wanted to put him in a place where we could use his speed and shut opponents down,” said Carlton.
“I’m proud that we asked him to change positions, and he was proud with it. Remember, he was unanimous all-district at corner, but he wasn’t selfish and made this move for the team.
“At safety, you’ve got all that space in front you, and not everyone can handle it.”
But someone with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash can – someone like Hennard.
Hennard actually came out for football in the spring of 2010 as a freshman, but decided to return to basketball – his first love at the time. He has remained on the basketball team and played a big role in Granbury reaching the postseason last school year.
“It was cool to be a part of that first basketball team to end the streak of missing the playoffs,” he said, adding that he wishes he were on the team when the Pirates ended their football postseason drought of more than three decades in 2010.
“Yeah, that would have been nice,” he said. “But I can help them keep the new streak going of reaching the playoffs.”
The Pirates and Hennard are trying to do what has been done only once before (1965-68) in Granbury football history – reach the postseason four straight years.
Carlton said it was Hennard’s hard play on the basketball court that drew attention to the football coaches.
“We saw him on the basketball court, and a competitor is a competitor,” said Carlton. “Some people, even if it’s rock, paper, scissors, they take it seriously and don’t want to lose.”
Pugh said he could see right away that Hennard had something special.
“I knew even before he came out he had something,” said Pugh. “I’d been working on him for a while. It was not a shock to me what he could do once we got him out there.
“We were extremely disappointed that he didn’t stay after that spring, but it’s always been my philosophy that you never close the door on a kid.”
Along with his athletic talents, Pugh said Hennard is simply a positive force to have on the team.
“He’s just a great kid, has a great personality, is super to be around,” said Pugh. “He always has a smile on his face.”
Pugh and Carlton believe that, despite his size, Hennard can play in college.
“A guy with 4.4 speed? You bet,” Pugh said. “And somebody will be glad they signed him.”
Carlton added, “He has the speed to run with anybody out there. If he gets in the right situation and somebody needs speed, sure, he could do great in college.
“That might be back at corner, but wherever it is, he could go make somebody a good athlete in college.”
There’s also track season ahead, another sport at which Hennard excels – although a bit reluctantly at first each season.
“I always dread it until it comes up, but then I love it,” he said, chuckling. “I really like the short races.”
Hennard said he isn’t focusing on a college career just yet, although he would like to play football somewhere at the next level. In the meantime, he wants to accomplish a few more things as a Pirate.
“I’m not ready to start thinking about this being my final year here,” he said. “I know that time will come, though.”
And will he box again?
“I was driving to Paulie Ayala’s (in Fort Worth), and it just got to be too much. I was just doing sparring matches,” he said.
“But I did like it, so sure, I might take it up again. It was one of the most fun sports I’ve ever done.
“But right now I’m having lots of fun doing what I’m doing.”
So are those watching and coaching him.
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