Arkansas LB signee a natural leader

By: Adam Cole
Published: Sunday, January 9, 2022
Shiloh Christian linebacker Kaden Henley runs with the ball during a scrimmage Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Springdale.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Shiloh Christian linebacker Kaden Henley runs with the ball during a scrimmage Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Springdale.

Ashley Henley has seen his son Kaden grow in just about every aspect of his life.

Ashley, who also serves as Shiloh Christian’s linebackers coach, saw his son continue coming into form as a football player in 2021.

Kaden was the Saints’ team-leader in tackles for the third consecutive year, notching 150 takedowns. He was a disruption in the backfield, posting 26.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. He also recorded two interceptions, three pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown en route to Shiloh Christian’s third consecutive Class 4A state championship game appearance.

For his efforts, Henley is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s All-Arkansas Preps Defensive Player of the Year.

“He was more physical from the standpoint [that] when he played, there was just a different level of confidence, if that makes sense,” Ashley said. “I’m sure a lot of that just comes from having played so many snaps at that level.

“I’m just proud of the fact that he’s just gone out and proven himself over and over, and it’s been fun for me to just kind of sit back and watch.”

Though he played both fullback and tight end for the Saints, Henley was no stranger to defensive success. Over the past three seasons, he tallied 375 tackles in 40 games. He also had 54.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, and 7 interceptions, according to MaxPreps.

The Saints were 41-4 the past three seasons with Kaden in tow, posting 14-1 marks in 2019 and 2020 with a state title in 2020. They went 13-2 in 2021, capping the year with another title game appearance, losing 42-14 to Joe T. Robinson in the championship game.

Both Ashley and Shiloh Christian Coach Jeff Conaway said Kaden grew most as a leader this season, though it wasn’t something completely new to him.

“As a sophomore, when he began to lead vocally, I felt like that was definitely going to be something that was going to give him an advantage,” Conaway said. “Sophomores that are willing to lead are few and far between at times, so you match the intangibles of his height and his size and his ability on the field with also the ability to lead, and we knew that there was going to be a special football player developed.”

One of the ways Henley developed as a leader this season was by hosting a discipleship group, which consisted of six sophomore teammates. The teammates would meet every Sunday to discuss and growth in their faith.

“The biggest thing is it just built relationships,” Henley said. “The relationships I have with the people in my discipleship group, it’s a bigger relationship than I would’ve had in general [with them] … . So it’s just relationships I wouldn’t have built in the first place.”

Conaway added that “I think that leadership is something that lasts. It’s leadership that leaves a legacy, and he certainly has left a legacy here, not only for what he did on the field, but even more so for what he’s doing off the field.”

On Dec. 15, Henley signed a letter of intent to continue his football career at the University of Arkansas, 10 months after verbally committing to the Razorbacks. He graduated early and is enrolling at Arkansas for the spring semester.

Henley said his goal was to play for the Razorbacks, and that once the program extended him an offer, he knew where he wanted to continue his football career.

“It’s crazy how it really just fell into place for him,” Ashley said. “Arkansas was where he wanted to go long before it came to be. To see him again, set goals, get rewarded for his hard work, and then the fact that he’s going to do that right down the road from where we live is just even a bigger blessing. It’s almost kind of a pipe dream. We’re just blessed, excited for him and glad that we’re going to be close enough to just kind of take the coach hat off and just enjoy him playing.”


Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.