DHS athlete wins state’s top award

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Thomas (Robby) Henson of Demopolis High School was named the overall Achievement Winner at the 18th annual Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Awards Banquet Monday night in Birmingham as 96 honorees were awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships.

The Achievement Award is given to student athletes who by sheer determination have overcome obstacles to achieve a level of success in a sport.

Henson had to overcome injuries from a December 2001 hunting accident to play football for the 13-1 DHS Tigers.

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Henson said he was excited about Monday’s award, but it didn’t touch the feeling of winning 13 straight games during the 2002 football season. "It was the best time of life," he said, "having the best season in school season – just being a part of it." He enjoyed the experience on and off the field.

The most important thing he said was his ability to be able to play football at all after his injuries. "I didn’t necessarily know that I would do it (return to play football), but i knew I was going to do everything I could to do it."

It took him several months of rehabilation to be ready for the April 2002 spring training. He had to do different weight training during the 2002 season. "I can’t do half what other people do," Henson said. He would work on special equipment at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital after practice.

The 2001 hunting accident was a blow to the team, Goodwin said. "We were concerned about him living…then secondly, (whether) he could live a life of normalcy. Playing football was third on the list."

Henson’s story is part of the character and chemistry of the Tigers’ historic 2002 football season. "He served as a fine example," the coach said. "Nobody could come out there feeling sorry for themselves. If they felt sorry for themselves all they had to do is look over there at him and see what he had been through."

Henson has not decided his future after he graduates with the DHS class of 2003.

Monday’s program recognized 48 regional scholar-athlete winners, selected for their excellence in athletics and academics, and 48 achievement winners, chosen for the student-athlete’s ability to overcome major obstacles during their high school careers.

The student athlete program is named in honor of the late coaches Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama and Ralph "Shug" Jordan of Auburn.

David Vining of Winfield High School was named the state’s overall Scholar Athlete Award winner. The overall scholar athlete award is named for Larry D. Striplin Jr., who founded the scholarship program that annually recognizes the state’s outstanding senior student athletes.

The awards to the overall winner and the six class winners in each award category were presented at the banquet sponsored by the Bryant-Jordan Foundation in conjunction with the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the Alabama High School Athletic Association. All of the scholarships awarded may be used at the school of each recipient’s choice.

In both award categories, each of eight region winners per class received a $1,500 scholarship. The overall winner in each class received an additional $3,000 scholarship.

From that select group in each category came the overall winner, who received an additional $3,000 scholarship.

In addition to the individual awards, the school of each class winner will receive $2,000 and the school of each overall winner will receive an additional $1,000.

Each school nominates one athlete each for the scholar and the achievement award, Goodwin said.