Askew-Henry Eyes Bounceback In Final Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Next week West Virginia will join the other Big 12 teams in Kansas City for what has become the annual summer kickoff of the football season — the conference’s Media Days.
Four players are representing WVU and certainly all have earned the right — quarterback Will Grier, who will be the center of attention; wide receiver David Sills V, offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste and linebacker David Long.
There is a tell tale story in the fact that senior spur Dravon Askew-Henry is not among those being presented to the media, a story that may wind up with a happy ending, just as it had a happy start.
Askew-Henry looked to be a budding star when he came out of the legendary Aliquippa program outside Pittsburgh, debuting as a true freshman with six tackles against Alabama and finishing the year with 45 total tackles and a pair of interceptions.
That performance was good enough for ESPN.com to name him a freshman All-American.
Even now, he remembers when he first got to school and went through his first workout.
“The first day out here we were warming up and coach (Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning) Mike (Joseph) said to jog and I was in a full blown out sprint and everybody was laughing at me. As I look back it’s been a fun ride,” he said.
Fun, but it had its ups and downs.
When he finished his second season his star was shining even brighter, having made 59 tackles with an interception.
The coaches saw him as a key cog in the defense, combining not only speed with strength and toughness, but beginning to show leadership skills.
What’s more, he was durable, having started every game in his career.
With his junior season dawning, they were thinking big things of Dravon Askew-Henry, but that all changed when he went down for the year with a knee injury.
One thing is certain, when something like that happens, all you have taken for granted becomes cherished memories. Rehabilitation is not easy and there are days when you feel like you can get back in there that day and other days when you wonder if you ever will get back to where you were.
Hopes were high last year for his junior season but Askew-Henry will tell you it wasn’t his best season.
“I’d say it was more of a confidence thing,” Askew-Henry said when last made available to the media. “In football, if you don’t have confidence, you’ve already lost.”
He had a good year, but not the breakout year they had hoped for.
So now he feels he has a lot to make up for.
“For sure,” he said. “Coming out of the season that we had last year and just for myself, I always have something to prove. I’m coming into the season with a chip on my shoulder, it’s my senior year, my last go-around with my brothers and I’m ready to put it all out there.”
With so much expected from the offense and the defense believing in itself far more than outsiders looking in, they are hoping to be a national force.
To do that they need a big year out of Askew-Henry and the leadership he can offer.
He believes his time at WVU has put him in position to be such a leader, noting that he is much different than when he arrived.
“Growth,” he answered when asked how he had changed. “I know how to compete. If you are going through something, battle through it. I learned so much since I’ve been here. I’m just trying to be the leader now and influence the younger guys.”
One such younger player that he has taken under his wing is another Aliquippa graduate, highly regarded freshman Kwantel Raines.
“I could literally walk to his house back at home,” Askew-Henry said. “He lived right down the street from me. I knew him growing up. He’s been a good kid, who’s always been athletic.
“I’m glad that I get a chance to play with him. I’ve just been sitting on the porch and seen him walk by, and we always talked. He always told me he was going to come here and play with me.”
Raines well could be an enduring part of Askew-Henry’s legacy.
“I came here as a boy, and I’m going to leave a man,” Askew-Henry said. “The state of West Virginia means a lot… I’ve learned so much while I’ve been here. I’m just trying to be that leader and influence the younger guys.”