I had the pleasure of covering Darrell Henry and Northside high school on a daily basis for nearly five years.
Sure the wins didn’t flow through Mayo-Thompson Stadium like they used to but you could never tell that by the players’ attitude or the persona of coach Darrell Henry.
When my phone rang at 9:41 a.m. Monday and I saw “Jim Rowland” pop up on the caller ID, I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. Rowland can only be described as a straight shooter. His words were short and to the point.
“Could you come by the office for a meeting some time today?”
As I walked into his office, you could see what he had to say was weighing on him. He fought back tears. It was obvious he didn’t want to say what he had to say.
What he said was Northside coach Darrell Henry was resigning from his head coaching position. Henry and Rowland are the first two names that come to mind when thinking about Fort Smith’s football programs. Henry has been a coach in the district for more than 25 years.
Northside failed to make the playoffs this season after finishing 3-7 and a loss to Southside in the regular season finale.
Even when the Grizzlies were 0-6, I can remember talking to Henry on the phone and he sounded more upbeat than ever. Little did I know, the conversation I had with him just after the Grizzlies’ loss to Conway came after he had already decided to resign at the end of the year.
Our conversation last week prior to the “Battle of Rogers Avenue” was the usual. He spoke of getting in the playoffs and have a chance to play an extra week.
I’ve covered a lot of coaches through my years in the media. Sure I saw more teams with better talent. Sure I saw teams that did things differently. Never did I see a team that was more respectful and appreciative of what they had.
Henry always went out of his way to thank me for the coverage, as did all the players and coaches at Northside. At a 7A school, most would just expect the coverage and see it as I was doing my job.
Coaches like Henry and the players he turned out in his 11 years with the Grizzlies are the reasons why I love doing what I do.
They do it for the love of the game. And they always appreciate just being there.
Though some say he didn’t win enough games for Northside, the school is losing a good man and a good leader for America’s youth.