Rehab Behind Him, WVU’s Dravon Askew-Henry Looks To Future
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When Dravon Askew-Henry went down with a season-ending ACL tear this time a year ago, the fear wasn’t that he would never play again. The fear was in the difficulty in getting back.
That 365 days can go quickly or drag on, and Askew-Henry has sampled each. The initial pain, the knowledge that his 2016 season had vanished and been replaced by not only surgery, but the months of rehabilitation that had to follow.
“It was tough at first, but I worked hard, stayed dedicated to it and overcame it,” he said. “I had to stay focused and remember my goal. That kept me pushing.”
There was the slow repair of the ligament itself, then the building of the muscle fibers around it. The gingerly taken steps, the initial trusting of the body again. Akew-Henry literally had to learn that it was fine to walk again, then jog, then run and cut. It was like reverting back to being a toddler, with a knowledge of what the body is capable of when fully healthy.
That’s always the biggest obstacle, the mental challenge in understanding both the patience required, and the dogged determination to push through the workouts, the stretching, the cold, bland winter mornings when the injury aches and the last thing desired is to go prod it to get stronger and healthier.
The proverbial corner was turned sometime around March, when West Virginia opened spring camp and there was the promise of actual football. With seven months of recovery and rehabilitation since the Aug. 7 injury, Askew-Henry began to notice the healing that had transpired, and the promise of the coming season.
“Towards spring ball I started feeling good, so when it came time for camp, I new I’d be ready,” he said. “Mike Joseph and the training room guys got me back right.”
To the point where West Virginia now has its former freshman All-American back patrolling the free safety slot, where he started the first 26 games of his career while making 104 tackles over two seasons. Because Askew-Henry never redshirted until the injury, this season will be his junior year.
“He’s worked his tail off to get to where he is now,” WVU safeties coach Matt Caponi said. “He looked good moving around, running, cutting, and he wasn’t limited. He got through all the drills, got through practice, and felt good this morning. So, those are good signs. Once we get the pads on and that first thing – maybe jumping up for a ball and going up with a receiver – I’m sure once that takes care of itself, then it’ll be full-throttle from there.”
Which seems to be the only way Askew-Henry plays. Since being named a two-time Pennsylvania first-team all-state player at Aliquippa High and signing with West Virginia in the class of 2014, Askew-Henry had been a staple in the secondary. His instincts, athleticism and ability to elevate the play of those around him made him invaluable to a Mountaineer defense trying to build into the 3-3-5 set his first two seasons.
“I’m going to bring energy, leadership and when times get hard, I am going to be the one to step up and make things happen.” – Dravon Askew-Henry
Now teamed with junior college All-American and All-Big 12 selection Kyzir White and free safety-turned-bandit Toyous Avery, Askew-Henry is a key part of what is arguably among the top safety units in the Big 12.
“I’m trying to instill confidence in him that he still has the ability to get better,” Caponi said. “I don’t think anybody has reached their max capacity yet from a standpoint of being able to do what they’re supposed to do every snap and doing it to the best of their ability. That’s my job, to coach those guys, get all the details ironed out and make them the best players they can be and put them in the best situation to be successful.
“With what Dravon does he competes in everything and he wants to be the best. That’s what you want as a coach with everybody. You want them to do the little stuff to make them better and always want to compete. I’m anxious to get back and be able to coach him again to see how he leads this group of guys, leads this team as a leader and just to see his play-making ability on the field.”