OFF THE EDGE: Clemson DE KJ Henry on Mentality, Maturation, and Myles Murphy

by Austin Silvey @SilveyESP

CLEMSON, SC -- On Wednesday evening (March 4, 2020), Clemson coordinators Tony Elliott & Brent Venables met with the media after their fifth Spring Practice. Three defensive ends were available as well in Justin Foster, Xavier Thomas, and KJ Henry.

Henry has become one of the better interviews on the Clemson team. Always willing to speak with the media and giving thorough answers to questions, typically with a smile on his face. That ability to speak and captivate an audience has become an on-field role of his as he transitions into one of the leaders on a young defense.

"Anybody that knows me knows I'm always talking," Henry said. "I feel like I've always been a leader ever since I was young. But I wasn't necessarily as vocal my first couple years but it's definitely something that I'm used to and confident in."

When we spoke with KJ back in fall camp, the teams first day practicing at Jervey Meadows ahead of the 2019 season, he said his goal during his redshirt season was to work on his body and get into a better physical position to play at this level. Now that he has an established framework in that area, he has a new goal this Spring.

"My goal this spring is all about me. Coming in each day and controlling what I can control and having an attack mindset." - KJ Henry

"Coming into my third year, I know it starts with the mindset. That's really what I've been trying to focus on. Coming out everyday with the right mindset."

"Everybody's days are numbered in the grand scheme of things so I just wanna attack each day and get better."

KJ Henry (#5) before the 2019 Military Appreciation game vs Wofford // Photo by Austin Silvey

Confidence in himself has also been a reoccurring theme in Henry's thought process. Back in fall camp, his desire to improve physically stemmed from the thought that he needed to be more confident in his own body. He told us, "It starts with me. If I don't have confidence in myself then there's no point."

When asked Wednesday night about what he thought he improved on the most in the 2019 season, he said, "I would say confidence wise....if I don't have any confidence in myself then I won't make any plays. Throughout the season my confidence grew and my teammates confidence grew in me too."

As that confidence continues to grow, now entering his third year at Clemson, so does his maturity and level of responsibility as the age of the guys around him keeps getting lower.

"All the young guys have been great so it's been really easy from the leadership standpoint," Henry stated. "Now it's just the communication on a day-to-day basis and making sure we're all on the same page. It's been very comfortable."

"Looking at our squad, our culture, our program, it's kind of a reload mindset. At the end of the day, guys come in, younger or older and what not, but it's no excuses. This is the time of year where we all grow in maturity and get better."

With the secondary and linebacking corp losing a lot of veteran leadership the past two seasons, the defensive line will be asked to plate a bigger load of responsibility in 2020. And not just play a bigger role defensively, but also to lead & teach the young talent on the defensive line as well. When asked if he and the defensive line are ready for all of it, Henry answered boldly and honestly.

"Most definitely. At the same time it's not really something that you focus on. It just comes back to the day in-day out grind. Trying to grow and get better personally and as each person gets better we get better as a unit."

One of the popular early enrollees this Spring has been Myles Murphy. When asked about what he has seen from him so far, Henry had nothing but glowing praise for the freshman.

"Just...God given talent. That's first off. There's just some things you can't explain. Like...woah!" - KJ Henry on Myles Murphy

"I did not come in looking like that. And he's just so smart, long, athletic, and fast. He's definitely one we like to have in our room. I'm glad we don't have to play against him. He's just a great kid. I met his mom the other day -- great family. He's gonna be a great player for us."

KJ had some flashes of brilliance last season and is only scratching the surface of what he can become. The 2020 season presents a lot of new roles and responsibilities for KJ and the rest of the defensive line. But with all of it comes opportunities to shine in more ways than one.

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