Before the 2020 high school football season began, Anthony Henriquez, Jr. had a personal goal, an accolade that he most certainly wanted and needed to attain.
The Hoboken High School senior fullback/middle linebacker just had to become a Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week this season.
That’s because young Anthony’s father, Anthony Sr., was once named the Reporter AOW during his stellar football career at Hoboken in 1988, before he headed off to play linebacker at NCAA Division I Kent State.
And Anthony’s two twin sisters, Alizea and Jaeda, were both once named the Reporter AOW during their brilliant three-sport (volleyball, basketball and softball) careers with the Redwings that ended in 2017.
The Henriquez twins are currently in their senior years at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware and play volleyball and softball at the school.
“They talk to me about winning Athlete of the Week all the time,” Anthony Henriquez, Jr. said. “My father would always tell me that I got a long way to go before I can be Athlete of the Week. It pushed me and I used it as motivation this year. I always wanted to be better than him.”
So there was a lot of internal pressure inside the Henriquez household for young Anthony to perform. Considering that this is his senior year, Henriquez Jr. was running out of time.
Young Henriquez Jr. always wanted to be like his father, even though he never had the chance to watch his father play live, only on tape.
“It motivated me a lot,” the younger Henriquez said of his father, who was Kent State’s leading tackler in 2002. “I would hear stories all the time about how good he was, how aggressive and tough he was playing defense. I wanted to be like him and be better than him.”
Hoboken head coach Keeon Walker, who was a teammate of the elder Henriquez at Hoboken High during the Redwings’ glory days of the late 1980s, believed that Henriquez, Jr. had some work to do before he could achieve the heights attained by his father.
“He had some maturing to do,” Walker said. “He’s a kid who has been playing for us since his freshman year, but he really needed to step into a leadership role. We look at our seniors to fill the leadership roles and Anthony’s the leader of the pack. He’s as tough as nails, like his father. Both are hard-nosed, tough football players. You can see a lot of his father in him.”
Henriquez, Jr. knew that he had to have more of an impact with the Redwings.
“Coming into this season, I knew I had to be a leader on this team,” Henriquez, Jr. said. “I needed to have the juniors and sophomores following behind me.”
In the offseason, Walker made the decision to change the Redwings’ offensive approach, going back to the Delaware Wing-T offense that was instilled to the fullest by legendary head coach Ed Stinson, utilized by Walker when he first got the job, then was pushed to the relic pile last season.
The move back to the Wing-T certainly made Henriquez, Jr. happy, considering he’s more of a North-South runner, running the ball within the tackles. He knew he was a perfect type of back for the Wing-T.
“It was music to my ears,” Henriquez, Jr. said.” Once Coach Walker put that offense in, I knew we were going to do well.”
“If you’re going to run the Wing-T, you need to have guys block on the edge,” Walker said. “And there weren’t too many people who want to tackle that guy. I knew he really wanted to have a shot.”
Henriquez. Jr. rushed for 153 yards on just five carries and scored three touchdowns in a 46-0 win over Snyder. He then added 103 yards on 11 attempts and scored two touchdowns in a surprising 48-6 rout of long-time rival Lincoln.
Henriquez, Jr. also made an astounding 14 tackles from his middle linebacker slot, pushing his tackle total to 41 in just three games.
For his efforts, Henriquez, Jr. has earned the right to have the same title as his father and his sisters. Henriquez, Jr. has indeed been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Walker realizes the importance that Henriquez, Jr. has to his team.
“I would have to say so,” Walker said. “He’s the middle linebacker and he’s been there for four years. Having a middle linebacker with that kind of experience is so vital. You can’t replace that. As a running back, he’s doing a great job making solid run. I think he’s showing people what hard work and dedication gets you. His father gets on him. I think me coaching him and [assistant coach] Tyrell [Dortch] coaching him. We scream at him all the time, and he pays attention.”
Everyone knew that Henriquez, Jr. could play defense. He was third in the entire state with 149 tackles a year ago. Where he’s opening eyes is as a running back.
“I’m getting the chance to showcase that I can run the ball,” Henriquez, Jr. said. “I’m proving that I’m not just a linebacker. Once we got the schedule, we marked Lincoln, because the seniors never had a chance to beat Lincoln. We were more that determined. We were not going out without beating Lincoln. I just have to keep working hard and showcasing my talent.”
Henriquez, Jr. is proudly wearing the same No. 1 uniform jersey number that his father wore during his days with the Redwings.
“At first, I wasn’t allowed to wear it,” said Henriquez, Jr., who used to wear No. 21. “But my father passed it down. He said he was holding the jersey for me in storage. It meant so much for me to put it on. I take pride in wearing it.”
Henriquez, Jr. also made his mark as a great wrestler last year in his very first year as a wrestler. Henriquez, Jr. competed at the 220-pound weight class and was undefeated heading into the District 10 tournament.
“Wrestling helped me a lot as a football player,” Henriquez, Jr. said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in me that I could do it. But wrestling has helped me when I need to get off blocks to make tackles. I’m really looking forward to wrestling this season. I’m experienced now. There are no excuses now this year.”
Walker believes that Henriquez, Jr. is a college prospect.
“He can definitely play at the next level,” Walker said. “He can run. I think we’re all seeing how good of a football player he is.”
But Henriquez, Jr. stands only 5-foot-10 and weighs 220 pounds. College scouts want taller, and a little heavier linebackers. Once again, Henriquez, Jr. has to prove people wrong.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Henriquez, Jr. said.
Looks like he’s already proving a lot of naysayers can’t judge a book by its cover. This book, Anthony Henriquez, Jr., is not like any other. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com