FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — In terms of recruiting recognition, Arkansas freshman Hayden Henry flew way under the radar compared to his brothers.
His older brother, Hunter (2013 class), and younger brother, Hudson (2019 class), earned ratings as 4-star tight ends and were top-100 overall recruits in their classes, according to 247Sports. Arkansas offered both as sophomores at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, which Hayden also attended.
Hayden was a 2-star safety who didn’t crack the top 2,000 overall in the 2017 class. He arrived on campus as a blueshirt, meaning he won’t be on scholarship until after the fall semester.
But Hayden is already impressing in his first month with the Razorbacks. He’s slated as a backup outside linebacker, making him likely to see the field as a freshman. He also said he believes he has better tools in a certain area than his brothers.
“I just think that my football IQ is a little bit higher than both of them,” Hayden said. “That’s what helps me learn the defense quicker and get to the ball faster than other people.”
Hayden’s personality is different from his brothers’. He showed it off during a drill on the kickoff coverage team last week.
“He beat somebody pretty handily and was supposed to go tag the bag,” said coach Bret Bielema. “He tackled the bag, rolled through, did a somersault and stood up and posed. So, he’s got a little more theatrics than his older brother, but he’s pretty good.”
Hayden has used Hunter’s experiences in preseason practices at Arkansas to help him make it through the dog days. He’s also keeping tabs on his older brother to make sure Hollywood isn’t getting to his head after moving with the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles.
“Hunter has slowly begun to start dressing a little bit like a hipster,” Hayden said. “Tight pants, weird shoes. But I’m going to support him either way. I like it.”
So how did Hayden end up at outside linebacker with two brothers excelling at tight end? Mostly height. At 6-foot-1, he’s at least 4 inches shorter than both. But when he discovered he had a knack for delivering heavy hits, defense became a natural fit.
Hayden played safety at Pulaski Academy the past three years. His only FBS offers, other than the blueshirt opportunity at Arkansas, were from Air Force and Navy. Those schools wanted him to play safety.
The Razorbacks identified him as an outside linebacker based on film of him playing close to the line of scrimmage. He was quick to make plays in coverage and against the run. Now, he’s doing much of the same in Fayetteville.
“That guy is a talent, and we’ve seen it from the first day of fall camp,” said junior outside linebacker Randy Ramsey. “He’s an intelligent guy. He’s smarter than most freshmen right now.”