Catching up with receiver Marcus Henry

Marcus Henry’s 6-foot-5 frame and soft hands have allowed him travel all across North America throughout his career. Selected  by the New York Jets in the 6th round of the 2008 draft, Henry spent three years in the NFL before heading north of the border. Since signing with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2011, Henry has played for the Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes, suited up for 54 games and averaged 13.1 yards per catch. 

Before breaking into the CFL, you spent a couple years in the NFL. How did that experience help you grow as a player?

While playing in the NFL, I had the opportunity to be teammates with veterans like Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, Jason Taylor and Darrelle Revis. Those guys taught me how to conduct myself on and off the field. On the gridiron, they were intense competitors giving their all, and off it, men of the community, always making time to give back.

Prior to the 2014 season, you signed with the Redblacks as a free agent. What made Ottawa an attractive destination? 

The fact that I already had relationships with most of the coaches was huge. Coach Campbell was the special teams coach while I was in Edmonton and I’ve always liked his demeanour and style of coaching. Same goes with Coach Moore, who was my receiver coach in Edmonton.

 Being an expansion team, what were some of the challenges you guys faced that inaugural season?

I think the biggest thing that first season was how young our team was and the fact that we had so little experience on both sides of the ball. Another challenge we faced was trying to overcome close losses and feeling like we were disappointing the great fans in Ottawa. I think a lot of us felt like we were letting the city down by not winning more games, so that pressure was tough.

 Given all of offensive struggles that first year, how did still you manage to lead the Redblacks in receptions and yards?

I really take pride in being the best I can be. Whether it was in practice or a game, I made sure I was focused in my efforts and doing the best (and most) I could to help us get better. I think those habits allowed me to be successful that season because it showed Hank that he could trust me in games. I hope it also showed the younger players what being a professional meant.

 What’s your favourite route to run?

Not many receivers will say this, but any route across the middle. I’m a big guy and a big target so it’s always been easy for me to track the ball and take a hit.

 Talk me through your ideal off day in Ottawa.

It would involve my wife (Stephanie) and I walking on the paths along the Ottawa River. I lived just across the river in Gatineau so I had a good view of Parliament Hill when we went out for a stroll. We also had the opportunity to go canoeing at Dow’s Lake and down the Rideau Canal which was great.

 Much is made of Henry Burris’ arm strength, but does he really throw the ball that hard?

Burris’ arm is probably one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen and had the opportunity to catch a ball from. He’s one of those quarterbacks where if you had a deep route, you knew you couldn’t relax because he’d never hesitate to launch the ball downfield if he thought he had a shot of catching the defence off guard. That being said, Henry also knew when to put touch on the ball and that’s what made him such a great quarterback.

 The 2015 off-season brought a ton of change; a new offensive co-ordinator, a cornerstone left tackle in SirVicent and four big name wide receivers. How did you feel about so much competition being brought in at your position?

I felt like I did every previous off-season in football; that I was fighting for my job. Even though I had just led the team in yards and receptions, I knew that a lot of the blame that inaugural season was put on the receivers and I felt like I had to prove myself all over again.

 What was the biggest difference between Mike Gibson’s style as an offensive co-ordinator compared to Jason Mass?

The main difference was that under Gibson, we’d normally try to establish a run game first, then pass the ball. Towards the end of the year, we did use a bit of no huddle, but not a whole lot. With Coach Maas we constantly ran a no huddle, up-tempo style that loved putting the ball in the air.

 Certain stadiums around the league have a reputation for being tougher to play at than others. In your experience, which city has the most relentless hecklers?

I have to go with Saskatchewan. Their fans are always into the game no matter what the score is. Even when the team isn’t having the best of seasons, the crowd remains loud and rowdy all year long. You can always count on getting a laugh from some of the things the hecklers in Regina come up with.  

 Throughout your career you’ve the opportunity to play with a number of talented QBs, who did you most enjoy catching passes from?

In the NFL, I’d say Brett Favre but that might just be because I was a huge fan of his growing up. In the CFL, I’ll go with Ricky Ray. There was just something about running a corner route and catching a Ricky Ray pass that was so satisfying. You knew he would put it exactly where it needed to be.  

 As it currently stands, you’re on the free agent market, any specific teams you’d like to go to or coaches you’d like to play for?

I’m open to playing anywhere but I’d probably say Edmonton since that’s where I live and Coach Maas is the head coach. Plus, I’m getting close to the end of my career and it would be nice for it to end where it began. All that said, Ottawa always has a spot on my list because the fans and city.  

Lastly, tell me something most members of R-Nation would be surprised to know about you. 

I’m an avid paintball player. During the season I always try to plan a paintball outing for the team. Another thing that people might be surprised to know is that during the off-season I work as a personal trainer for Goodlife.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).