Kevin Henry, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1993-2000
First, can you let readers know about the Kevin Henry Foundation – how it got started and what it’s mission is?
The Kevin Henry foundation was started after working with at risk youth in 1994 after my rookie season with the Steelers. Because of many challenges that I faced as a kid, coming from a poverty-stricken area in Mississippi, I thought it was only right that I go back to where it all began for me and be an inspiration to someone just like me.
Although you can’t get much help financially from that town I got something much more important – that love, support and good coaching.
My foundation’s mission is to create a developmental program that not only helps youth perform at it’s highest potential, through academic enrichment, tutoring and mentoring but also assists the parents through sports programs.
How can readers help support the foundation and it’s mission?
The readers can support the foundation by going to www.Kevinhenryfoundation.org to find out how to get involved and or to make a donation. They can also find out about upcoming events to volunteer your service.
You were drafted by the Steelers in ’93. What players and coaches helped you as a rookie to learn the Steelers defense? How did they do so?
As a rookie,I had quite a few things to learn, one was to play with pain. In my book I talk about guys I thought influenced my game. Greg Lloyd was the leader on or defense and also my roommate as a rookie. Mark Woodard was another guy who was drafted by the Steelers in the same year from my team in college, so he made me feel like I had him to depend on if I had a question about anything or just needed a friend.
It was good having a patient coach as a rookie, coach Cowher was an awesome coach to play for, as long as you practice hard and tried hard he loved you, because he knew it would only be a matter of time before he got the most out his players. I owe him a lot of credit. Coach John Mitchell wasn’t there my rookie year but his arrival certainly added years to my career.
Life in the NFL is also affected by your off-field attitude. How did you adjust to being a professional player – who helped you to not get caught up in off-field distractions – and how?
Staying out of trouble wasnt really a problem, because I always tried to never embarrass my team or family. As a rookie I hung out with older guys like Donald Evans, Kenny Davidson, and Gerald Williams.
I can say that we were a close team, but we also had coach Cowher who knew how to keep our attention when it came to getting in trouble.
Many of the players spoke about how loose that team was. How did Coach Cowher keep that team so focused – and what players also helped do so, and how?
Levon Kirkland, Jerry Oslavski, Greg Lloyd and Rod Woodson, were the pranksters on the team, to name a few. I remember a rookie being tapped up to his bed, hosed down with water and his air turned on high all night.
There was a good deal of competitiveness in Cowher’s training camps. Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against in camp and what made them so?
Rookie camp for me was tough cause I had to go up against some of the best lineman in the league. Guys like, Dermontti Dawson, Carlton Haselrig and Justin Strelczick. Dermontti was one of the best centers to ever play, and could snap the ball and lead a sweep play. Incredible!
You had the opportunity to play in the 1995 Steelers Super Bowl. What was the team’s mindset going into the game – did you view yourselves as big underdogs?
Playing in the ’95 Superbowl was an awesome time for me. It’s every kids dream to one day play on the biggest stage on earth. We were big underdogs and we knew it. But that’s how we wanted it, But what a disappointing loss. I hadn’t felt pain like that in a long time, to get that close, and lose the game. I was truly disappointed.
Readers may not know this, but you’re related to WWE Wrestler Mark Henry. Have you ever trained with the “World’s Strongest Man”? Have you ever tried to convince him to play football – the Steelers could use some linemen!
Mark Henry and I have never worked out together but we were supposed to work out together in 2001 before I was released from Cincy. But I tore an elbow and retired at that point.
Tell us about your book, Play Hard, Play Hurt. What prompted the writing of the book and what is the focus?
Play Hard Play Hurt was a book that was written at a time when I was reflecting on my life and all that I had accomplished and figured my story needed to reach people of all ages who are going through the challenges that I had to face, and how I dealt with them.
You see, failure wasn’t an option for me. I had kids at an early age, no job, bad grades, was on academic probation, and to make things worse I added a wife in college to my situation. I want people of all ages to know that you can achieve anything you want if you keep going through the fires of life. Anything is possible if faith is present.
Where can people purchase the book?
Any last thoughts for readers?
No matter how, keep the faith and put in the work. Bad times don’t last anyway, unfortunately neither do good times. Keep moving forward in spite of the bad times, take baby steps if needed, as long as you are moving in the right direction it’s still progress.