Kohl Henke joined the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program in 2018 as the third highest-rated prep recruit of head coach Tom Arth's second signing class, right behind fellow three-star prospects in defensive tackle Josh Walker and defensive end Mychal Austin (both since departed).
The contributions he's made haven't quite been what he envisioned during his career, but while he works for that opportunity, he's patient — because he believes his time is coming.
Henke has found a home on special teams for the 2-3 Mocs, who host 10th-ranked East Tennessee State (6-0, 3-0 Southern Conference) Saturday at 1:30 at Finley Stadium. The Boyd-Buchanan product is coming off a game in which he had a pair of tackles on coverage. It was the second multi-tackle game of his career.
His biggest problem coming into college was something he couldn't do much about — his size. He entered UTC at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, which is a perfect size for a college safety (which he was projected to play), but not when there's a logjam at the position. Henke initially had to fight players such as starting safeties Brandon Dowdell and Jerrell Lawson, among others, for time at the position, and there just weren't many reps available.
That led to a move to linebacker, where he joined good friend and former Soddy-Daisy standout Ty Boeck. Henke had bumped his weight up to somewhere around 215-220 pounds, before moving down to his current listed weight of 203, which gives him a chance to be his best on special teams coverage.
"I just take it as a great honor," Henke said after Tuesday's practice. "Ty is the starter and it's his time right now. I know my time's a little later and I'm just embracing that special teams role and trying to help my team every day the best I can.
"Whenever my name is called, I'll be ready."
Head coach Rusty Wright has spent a lot of time preaching to his team the importance of embracing whatever that role is. Coaches everywhere refer to it as "growing where your feet are planted," and simply taking advantage of the opportunity that's currently presented to oneself.
That's where Henke currently is.
"Everybody has a role on this football team, and his role is just as important as the starting quarterback at the end of the day, because he has to do those things and do his job well," Wright said. "That just says a lot about a young man that just puts his helmet on every day, puts his cleats on every day and does what he's supposed to be doing off the field."
Another saying is that you don't have to "get ready if you stay ready." It's why Henke continues to work in film study and on the practice field in hopes of his opportunity coming. In the meantime, playing in his hometown has given his family numerous opportunities to see him play, meaning his grandparents have a short drive to Finley Stadium on game day.
With the Mocs (1-1 in SoCon play) in a precarious position after last Saturday's overtime loss at Virginia Military Institute and the importance of needing a statement win to get back in the conference race, each day leading up to Saturday and each play, each possession from here on out assumes a new level of importance. So little things — such as kickoff coverage, something the Mocs have had some struggles with at times this season — become that much more important.
So a role like Henke's becomes that much more important.
"We've got to put a whole week together in practice and as soon as we do that, I think we'll put everything together on offense, defense and special teams," Henke said. "So far this week, we've had a good week, so I'm hoping this is the week we put all 60 minutes together."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.