A breeze of somber news swept throughout the NFL Thursday Morning. The day after Cincinnati Bengal receiver Chris Henry was rushed to the hospital with what was described as “life threatening injuries,” the five-year NFL veteran was pronounced dead at the age of 26.
The long troubled wide receiver seemed to be, for the first time in his life, on the straight and narrow. Chris was in his second stint with the Bengals in his short career. After run-ins with the law and suspensions by both the team and the NFL, Chris finally seemed to realize who he was. In a June interview with ESPN Henry described his new look on life and his plans to be a better player, father, and person. Henry, out for the season with a forearm injury, was in North Carolina presumably planning his wedding.
Henry’s death is yet another reminder of the Bengals’ troubled year. With a dream season coming to an end, and Cincinnati having a strangle hold on maybe the toughest division in the league, Henry’s passing is sadly not the first tragic death the Bengals have had to deal with this year.
Just four weeks ago the team learned that their long time defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer’s, wife had suddenly died. Death does nothing worse then ripe through a family. While maybe not related by blood, any athlete will tell you that no family is closer than that of a team. With hearts heavy with grief, the Bengals are expected to now put these thoughts aside and play a game on Sunday. If the sudden death of two “family members” says anything it may just be that life is no game at all.
No matter what you believe in, something has to be said for the motivation that something like death has on sports teams. Unfortunately this is not the first tragic death the world of sports has seen. Teams seem to rally around each other when losing one of their own. Think back to players like Pat Tillman, Nick Adenhart, and Sean Taylor. This Sunday, even as Henry wasn’t scheduled to play had he been there, he will surely be watching from above and be sitting on the shoulders, minds, and hearts of all the Bengal players.
Sports Fan or not, Chris Henry’s death had us all take a step back and reflect on our lives. Troubles with the law or not, Henry was dedicated to becoming a better player, person, and father. If nothing else, one must feel for his three children who will now grow up without a father. Henry’s good friend Chad Ochocinco may have put it best, describing his friend’s death as “…Never question the Man upstairs, but I don’t understand why Chris was taken so soon.”
As fans, we see athletes today as people larger than life. We can only hope now that Henry is in a better place and that his death will not be overlooked. My heart goes out to his children, his family, and his team. As his teammates and friends rave about him, there is no question he will surely be missed. Chris Henry dead at the age of 26.