Florida kicker Henry sealed win over Georgia with a kiss
Published: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.
During a timeout that was called to try and freeze him, Florida kicker Chas Henry looked over at the Georgia sideline Saturday and saw defensive coordinator Todd Grantham grabbing his neck and giving him the choke sign.
Who: Florida at Vanderbilt
When: Saturday, 12:21 p.m.
Gainesville-area TV: Fox
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
Henry had a response.
He pushed his helmet up on top of his head and ...
“I blew him a little kiss,” Henry said Wednesday. “He got a little upset. Then he did it again.”
Henry then delivered the ultimate farewell-we're-done kiss — a 37-yard field goal in overtime that made Florida a 34-31 winner in Jacksonville and broke Bulldog hearts everywhere.
“There was no doubt,” Henry said. “No doubt in my mind we were making that kick. Game over.”
Controversy soon followed.
Henry was one of the few people at Saturday's game who actually saw Grantham's choking gesture. But then it showed up on a television replay and quickly burned its way across the Internet. Grantham suddenly found himself up to his neck, so to speak, in criticism.
On Tuesday, UGA coach Mark Richt said Grantham's gesture was wrong and it would not happen again. Grantham said he regretted doing it.
Four days after blowing Grantham a kiss, Henry tossed him a bouquet, saying he saw nothing wrong with what Grantham did in the heat of a competitive rivalry game.
“I think it's ridiculous (that there have been repercussions),” Henry said. “I think it's ridiculous. He has no reason to apologize. It was in the middle of an intense game, one of the most intense rivalries in college football.
“Stuff like that has nothing to do with it. It's football. It doesn't bother me at all. I think it's ridiculous that people are trying to say he should have to apologize for it and he should be fined. He's a great coach. I've looked at his record. It's just an intense game.”
Of course, after making the winning kick, a little gesture from the losing sideline could never temper Henry's joy.
Henry still seems to be floating around campus a little bit.
He said in the past few days he's received numerous texts and congratulatory e-mails.
“I got about 80 texts,” he said. “My Facebook messages have gone through the roof. I heard from a lot of friends I lost contact with through the years. It's good to hear from everybody. Everyone was supportive.
“Even after the Mississippi State game, I got a lot of positive text messages and support.”
The Mississippi State game, two weeks earlier, was a low point for the punter-turned-kicker who picked up the field-goal kicking duties before the Alabama game when starter Caleb Sturgis injured his back lifting weights.
Henry missed both of his field goal attempts in a 10-7 loss, the second coming from 42 yards out with seconds remaining that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime.
“That was the first time I had a kick where, ‘You've got to make this one,' “ he said. “I really wasn't 100 percent confident in that. I hadn't kicked well in practice all week.
“My confidence was really low coming out of that game. But the week going into the Georgia game, on Thursday, I made everything. I did really well. All the coaches and players were behind me and real supportive. It built my confidence up from there.
“Going into the Georgia game, I knew it was going to be my redemption week.”
And it was.
Even though Henry punted and place-kicked at East Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., he'd been strictly a punter until Sturgis was hurt a little more than a month ago.
Suddenly having to take on the added role is a difficult challenge, but then Henry is not your average kicker. He was a standout quarterback in high school and also starred in basketball and soccer.
“It's the first time I've ever had to deal with that (the punter having to place-kick),” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “Obviously, it's hard.
“One thing about Chas is he also played quarterback in high school. He's an athlete. Athletes usually adapt much better than non-athletes.”
Henry is one confident athlete coming off Saturday's clutch game-winning kick.
“My confidence is really high now,” he said.
Meyer said Henry “deserved” to experience his big moment Saturday night.
“There are players that don't deserve it, but he's a guy who works hard, he's a team-first guy and he'll do anything for this football team,” Meyer said. “And he happens to be the best punter in college football. He has tremendous value.
“I'm very close to Chas and his family. He really earned that (moment against Georgia).”
Henry said in the weeks heading into the Georgia game, he received a lot of helpful advice from some former Florida field-goal kickers, including Judd Davis.
“I was lucky to have some great kickers who went to Florida, guys like Judd Davis,” Henry said. “He'd call me and say, ‘This is what you're doing. I've seen you doing this. Try doing this.' It really has helped a lot.”
Henry didn't need any help or advice in the response he came up with for Grantham's choking gesture.
“I looked over and I see the guy doing the choke, you're going to choke,” Henry said. “I decided to give a little smooch at him.”
For Georgia, it was a deadly kiss.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.