ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Before college football recruiting became its own industry, being a well-known prospect took a rare level of talent.
Drew Henson ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he took a snap at quarterback for Michigan. In a recruiting world before hype, Henson had a ton of it. Henson's career -- one major-league hit and nine NFL games with one start – didn't live up to it, but before all of that, Henson was a two-sport high school legend.
"During my 12th grade year it continued to grow and grow as I got the opportunity to chase the national high school home run record and the draft," Henson said. "Michigan had just won the national title, had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
"There were a lot of factors that just steamrolled into this huge story."
Part I: Drew Henson is discovered
Drew was the son of a college coach, Dan Henson, which meant moving around the country. When Drew was in eighth grade, his father took the offensive coordinator position at Arizona State.
Dan Henson: We were playing catch during his ninth-grade season. Drew asked, 'How good do you think I can be?' I said, 'I think you're going to be pretty good. Probably I can tell you how good by the end of ninth grade going into 10th grade.' That's really, at that point, at the beginning of ninth grade he was 6-1, 165.
Ron English, Arizona State graduate assistant: When he came out there to throw the ball, it was just ridiculous. He could really throw the ball. He was just a natural. You just knew that he was going to be a big-time player. He was unbelievable.
Dan Henson: When he was going into ninth grade, he came to my camp at Arizona State. Usually, you use these camps as a recruiting tool and Tom Brady was invited to the camp from San Mateo, Calif. Tom and Drew were in the same group with me the whole week.
Drew Henson: The irony was my father was the quarterbacks coach at Arizona State before he moved back to Michigan and he had Jake Plummer. There was a decent chance I could have ended up going there under different circumstances, playing a couple sports at ASU.
Dan Henson: By the end of ninth grade, when he moved to Michigan to play varsity baseball, when he was all-state, I left to go to Eastern Michigan, he was 6-3, 200 by the end of that year. Then I could tell.
Lloyd Carr, Michigan coach: I remember reading in the paper and hearing on the radio that Drew hit a home run in baseball, I think his first at-bat.
Dick Groch, New York Yankees scout: There weren't many kids that could hit it that high and that far. The first thing that impressed you was the raw power that he hit the neighbor's aluminum siding. Then he went to the bullpen and pitched that day. I personally said he would be in the big leagues in three years if he stayed with pitching. With the body that he had, threw 91 to 95, spun the curveball. It would have been a three-year program for him.
Part II: Drew Henson gets recruited
Due to his father's connections and understanding of football recruiting, Henson started looking at schools earlier and immediately narrowed his choices to six: Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Tennessee and USC.
Drew Henson: I went to camp at Florida State after my ninth-grade year and Coach [Mark] Richt and coach [Bobby] Bowden, they said they would keep an eye on me, so to speak, and were interested, as was Michigan. I ended up playing my first year and starting as a sophomore and over that winter was when both schools offered me a scholarship, in 10th grade, and that's when the ball really started rolling with getting letters from schools.
Carr: [Mike DeBord] went to see him and he came back and he said, 'This guy is the real deal.' For a kid that age, quite honestly, at that stage I wanted to offer after I had signed a class. For example, this year, if I signed a class in February, I didn't want to commit underclassmen before the other class was signed. Sometimes you do that, you're going to lose a kid and you're going to say this guy, he's the greatest thing ever and he's going to be a freshman next year and this guy is coming in behind me. But Drew was obviously a talent and he came with a wonderful background.
Drew Henson: I was always under the guise of I wanted the next challenge, wanted to plan into the future. In my mind, in 11th grade, I was planning on the next chapter and I was just letting it play out after my football season in 11th grade I narrowed my choices to Michigan, Florida State and obviously, Stanford, because of their academics and the ability to play two sports and they had football players who played two sports. That was very important to me with those three schools.
Dan Henson: The reason Stanford was eliminated was wherever he went, he wanted to make sure he played on New Year's Day. He felt that was a big deal. Michigan and Florida State played on New Year's Day. He didn't want to dilly-dally.
Part III: Drew Henson makes a decision
By his junior year in high school in 1996, Henson knew what he wanted to do. He might have even made a decision, but there would be one complication with another two-sport player. Right as Henson was about to make a decision, former Florida State quarterback-turned-minor leaguer Chris Weinke decided he wanted to come back to college.
Bobby Bowden, Florida State coach: We had signed Chris out of Minnesota [in 1990] and he told us I'm coming unless I'm drafted in the first round in baseball. We checked with a lot of the baseball scouts and they did not think he would be drafted in the first round so we signed him to a scholarship. In August, he reported for a practice and went a week. After practicing a week, he called me and said, 'Coach, they promised me first-round money and I'm going to have to go.' I told him I completely understood and if you ever decided you wanted to come back to football, I would save him a scholarship … never thinking he would come back. [In 1996], he called us and said, 'I would like to return if you all would let me.'
Mark Richt, Florida State offensive coordinator: Coach Bowden made a promise and he is going to keep it. But I came to him and said, 'Coach, I really think this Henson kid is something else. Are you sure Weinke is going to stick it out?' I just wasn't sure. You have a guy who has been out of football and you just don't know how truly serious he was and I had not talked to Chris at that point. I asked coach if I could talk to Weinke about his sincerity with this whole thing. If we were going to talk to Weinke, I knew we were going to lose Henson.
Dan Henson: Richt called me, I had finished the Eastern Michigan-Central Michigan game. Drew was going to commit to Florida State as a junior. Richt said, 'I've got some news. Coach Bowden told Chris Weinke [six] years ago if he ever changed his mind, he could come back.' Chris was done with baseball and decided to come back in January.
Richt: I hated [the conversation]. I think [Dan] hated it, too. I think he seemed very disappointed. He said Drew would be very disappointed. I think Drew was pretty much set on wanting to come.
Drew Henson: Michigan and Florida State were about 50-50. Chris Weinke decided to come back and was going to be a 25-year-old freshman and you're trying to position yourself to have a window to start. I was already leaning toward Michigan and if that was the way things had gone, it's all for a reason and continued to finish my decision and make it secure that Michigan was going to be the perfect spot for me and I'd go ahead and commit now and get it out of the way.
Dan Henson: At that point, he talked to Lloyd and he said if you commit as a junior, I won't recruit another guy after you. Some people made a big deal about that but the fact of the matter is that wasn't that big of an issue. It really wasn't.
Carr: I didn't have any major concerns that we wouldn't be able to recruit a guy in the next class. So that wasn't a big issue for me.
Drew Henson: I just called coach and said, 'Hey coach, I'm coming.' It wasn't anything more complicated than that. Just called him and said, 'Hey, coach, I'm going to be a Wolverine. I'm going to be a quarterback here and I want to go to the Rose Bowl.'
Part IV: Baseball comes into the picture
While Henson recruited for Michigan football and traveled to Ann Arbor to watch film as much as possible after he signed, baseball began to become clearer. He hit 70 home runs, drove in 290 runs and scored 259 -- all national records -- in his Brighton career.
Drew Henson: The only team that was willing to draft me, pay me first-round money and allow me to play football in college and baseball in the summer time was the Yankees. It's very clear I was going to play full-time football out of high school. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to play college football. So the most they could get me was a half-time player at that time. That's why I ended up going in the third round [pick 97].
Dick Groch: The conflict, more so than anything, was what he was going to do between football and baseball. That never bothered Mr. [George] Steinbrenner because he always followed that stuff anyway. We did it with a number of people, just not at that kind of money. But it was a no-brainer.
Dan Henson: He was biting at the bullet to get down there and play rookie ball. Casey [Close, Drew's agent] took the negotiations as deep into the summer as he could, which is what agents do. It was unprecedented to give a kid $2 million and still let him play college football. They had to get the language right and all that kind of stuff. When he went down for those 10 games, he acquainted himself with that. It was more of a cameo.
Casey DeGroote, teammate with the Gulf Coast League Yankees: You hear the stories, setting national records in high school baseball, national high school football player of the year, and you want to see for yourself. They were anxious to see him play and how good he really was.
Drew Henson: You put on your uniform and the Gulf Coast are the Yankees, so you have the Y on your jersey and your hat. You're standing in the mirror for about three or four minutes, just looking at yourself with the real gear on. Played 10 games, got a bunch of hits, got a home run, hitting .300 in just that week. Had a great little taste of it.
Ken Dominguez, manager, 1998 GCL Yankees: His first game with us, in rookie ball, we were playing a team that used to be called the Devil Rays back then in St. Petersburg. I remember he was out in the outfield getting loose and I was hitting with him and I said, 'Well, this is your first impression of the baseball game.' He said, 'I'll play football in front of a 100,000 people. I'm not going to be nervous.' That's the type of person he was.
DeGroote: He steps up and takes the first round [batting practice] of 12 and hits about 10 out. Just absolute bombs. 6-5, 220, 225, big frame, coming out of high school with a wooden bat dropping bombs. It was incredible. Right there, in that first round of 12, you knew, you heard the crack of the bat that it made. It was pretty incredible.
Dominguez: There's a transition that guys take from a metal bat to a wooden bat so I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of him right off the bat because he just had the time to get his feet wet and then he had to go back to football. So I didn't expect a lot but in the short time he was with me, he exceeded expectations and was better than I anticipated he would be with the bat. There was some length in his swing and he wasn't going to fix that in 10 or 12 days, but when he got the bat on it, he was going to hit it a really long way.
DeGroote: He'd do separate stuff to get more in during a certain amount of time. There wasn't resentment with the other guys, but more like, 'Why isn't he with us?' When you look back at it, they were just trying to work with him as much as possible.
Drew Henson: It was basically the perfect situation I could hope for actually happened. You go to Michigan and play quarterback there, get to go to school there. The situation I dreamed of was the Yankees taking me and getting to play for them in summer. And it actually happened.