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Henry decides to leave UA football team to turn pro

Arizona running back Chris Henry is passing up his senior season to enter the 2007 NFL draft.

Arizona running back Chris Henry is passing up his senior season to enter the 2007 NFL draft.

Chris Henry is seeking the opportunity to prove himself on the gridiron.

He believes he has a better chance in the NFL than with the University of Arizona football team.

The junior running back is leaving UA after declaring for April’s NFL draft.

“I have been thinking about this since I was replaced at the beginning of the season,” Henry said Monday. “I didn’t have the opportunity to show what I could do all year. How do I know it is not going to happen next year?”

Henry, by declaring for the draft, has lost his college eligibility.

UA coach Mike Stoops will not comment until he knows more details.

Henry started the season as the starter after being a reserve for his first two seasons behind current Denver Broncos tailback Mike Bell. Henry dropped in the depth chart behind Chris Jennings after being suspended against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 16 for what Stoops said was a violation of team rules.

The 6-foot, 225-pounder finished with 581 rushing yards after re-emerging as the starter late in the season.

Henry rushed 89 times for 342 yards and scored seven times during the Wildcats’ three-game winning streak against Washington State, California and Oregon. But he had only 38 yards against Arizona State in the regular season finale.

“I was not given the opportunity until the last four games,” he said. “I was able to finish strong at the end, but it was not enough to make me feel at ease (about coming back).”

Henry’s had a career game against the Ducks, rushing for 191 yards and scoring three times.

“I showed signs of what I could do against Oregon, but I could have been doing that all year,” he said.

Henry caught 21 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. His eight touchdowns this season were the most for any UA player since Clarence Farmer had 11 in 2001.

Has he done enough to impress the NFL scouts? Condraft.com has Henry as a possible third-round pick, while NFLdraftblitz.com says the former standout at Edison High School in Stockton, Calif., is on the rise.

“This is a very talented running back who has power and speed (three time 100-meter champion in high school), who was unlucky to play behind a couple of good running backs and then be thrown into a situation where he was playing behind three freshman offensive lineman as a senior,” NFLdraftblitz reported.

“We expect that he’ll be one of the more impressive players during individual workouts and his stock will really take off.”

Henry said he is focusing seriously on the upcoming workouts and the physical exams, which include testing on speed, jumping ability, agility and strength.

Henry is one of the more physically gifted UA players and one of the strongest.

“I don’t know where I am going to be drafted. It is just going to be an honor whoever takes me and wherever I will go,” Henry said. “What is important right now is training. Since we are not going to a bowl game, I can get an early jump on my training for the different workouts that are going to happen.”

Arizona will have to rely heavily in 2007 on Jennings, who will be a senior, and Sunnyside High School grad Xavier Smith, who will be a sophomore.

Jennings had 451 rushing yards on 105 carries and scored three times during his first year in the program after transferring from Arizona Western College.

Smith played sparingly, getting 23 carries for 120 yards.

“Look out for ‘X’ (Smith). He is going to be a heck of a back,” Henry said. “I guarantee you he is going to be really good.”

The Wildcats also have Terry Longbons and Glyndon Bolasky on the roster at tailbackand have received a commitment from Joseph Reese, a four-star recruit from Hendrickson High in Pflugerville, Texas.

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