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Five things to know about KJ Henry


The Washington Commanders selected Clemson pass-rusher KJ Henry with the No. 137 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to the defensive front. 

1. He plays for his dad's favorite team. 

Getting drafted is an exciting, unforgettable experience, not just for the players themselves, but also for their families. So, when the Commanders traded up to get Henry, there was an exciting atmosphere at his house. 

No one was screaming louder than Henry's dad, though. 

"[He's] Been a Commanders fan all his life," Henry said. "This has been his team and now it's my team. It was a big moment." 

Henry's dad wasted no time in repping the Burgundy & Gold once his son got the call from head coach Ron Rivera. He rushed upstairs to his room and came back wearing a Washington hat and jersey.  

Henry's dad was beaming as they posed for a picture.

2. He is the most reliable defensive end in Clemson history.

Henry had a long career with the Tigers, and while he wasn't a full-time starter until the 2022 season, he was reliable and productive whenever he was on the field.

"He can be dynamic when twisting and blitzing as a moveable piece around the defensive front and he does a nice job of setting up a buttery smooth inside rush that is often too quick for tackles," wrote's Lance Zierlein.

Over the course of his five years at Clemson, Henry racked up 122 tackles (63 solo) with 28 TFLs and 13.5 sacks. He also had two forced fumbles in his career and a career-high six pass breakups in 2022.

But perhaps one of Henry's best qualities was his availability. He ended his career playing in 58 games dating back to 2018, which is the most ever by a Clemson defensive end. Washington should benefit from having that kind of dependability in its rotation at defensive line.

3. He helped create the 1 CLEMS5ON endowment.

The Commanders didn't just get a quality player when they draft Henry; they also got someone who wants to help others off the field as well.

Last year, Henry partnered with Clemson running back Will Shipley and P.A.W. Journey/OVERTIME, IPTAY and Clemson University's Division of Inclusion & Equity in establishing the 1 CLEM5ON" endowment to help provide resources to Clemson University students, including fellow scholar-athletes.

"This extraordinary commitment by K.J. Henry and Will Shipley to give back to Clemson and support future generations of students is yet another example of their leadership and selflessness," Clemson University President Jim Clements said on the school’s website.

The first five years of the endowment, funded by five-figure donation from Henry and Shipley, will benefit the "Hear Her Roar" campaign, which helps empower and develop female student-athletes to become leader in their workplace, family and community. After that, the endowment will support the school's P.A.W. Journey program -- an initiative that develops student-athletes through "personal growth, life skills and professional development."

Click HERE to learn more about the "Hear Her Roar" campaign, and click HERE to check out the P.A.W. Journey.

4. He already has a leader's mentality.

Henry was a popular person in the Clemson locker room, so much so that his teammates voted him as a permanent team captain in 2022. It will be a while before he gets voted to that role with the Commanders, but the mentality that earned the role with the Tigers is not going away.

"I think that's a great quality any leader can have personally is just putting their product aside and doing whatever they can to help a team win," Henry said. "So that's the same mindset I'm coming in with."

Henry is hungry to make a name for himself in the NFL. He wants to find his role on the Commanders' defense, even if it isn't as a starter in his first year. At the same time, he wants to soak up as much information as possible from his teammates to prove that he wants to learn and be a better version of himself.

If he wants to earn the respect of his new teammates, that's a good way of approaching things.

"I have to open my ears and take advice from others, so that's just gonna be the same mindset that I come in with," he said.

Check out the top photos from former Clemson pass-rusher K.J. Henry's college career.

5. Ron Rivera thinks teams overlooked him.

There were plenty of pass-rushers who got most of the attention from analysts during the draft process, including Will Anderson and Lukas Van Ness. Henry was not high on many people's list, and Rivera thinks that was a mistake.

"I think KJ was overlooked. I really do," Rivera said after the draft. "The tape that you watch...he's there making plays, and so he's a guy that we wanted to add."

Rivera also pointed out that most were focused on Henry's teammate, Trenton Simpson, and for good reason. Simpson was considered one of the better linebacker prospects for his speed and abilities in coverage as well as blitzing quarterbacks.

That doesn't change the fact that Henry is a gifted player in his own right. With the right development, Henry has the tools to at least be a key contributor to the Commanders' pass rush. That's all Henry wants to do for his new team.

"I'm gonna bring great versatility to the field," Henry said. "Maximum effort every single play and just excited to help us win. Whatever aspect that's called for me on the field, special teams defense, just any position in order to bring us [wins] next year."

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