Trulon Henry happy to have life, football back on track

The comparisons are inevitable — they almost always are when one brother precedes another on an athletic team, especially when one brother has had great success and recognition.

Junior college transfer Trulon Henry, though, wants to make a name for himself at Illinois as his younger half-brother, Arrelious ‘Rejus’ Benn, moves on to the NFL after three years at Illinois.

“What a lot of people have to realize is, all our life me and Rejus, we’ve had similar bodies, we might say the same jokes, but we’re two totally different people,” said Henry, a junior safety.

Henry, a 25-year-old Washington D.C. native, was getting looks from college coaches when he graduated from high school in 2003, but he was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to five years in prison.

“I tried not to think about football,” Henry said. “I was just sad and stressed out.”

While in prison, Henry watched his friend and neighbor, Vernon Davis, thrive in college and become a first-round NFL draft pick.

Meanwhile, Henry was working detail in prison and working out — although his prison was light on equipment.

He didn’t play football in prison, though, until his final year.

“I kind of said, ‘Well, maybe I lost it,’” Henry said. “My last year I went out and gave it a test.”

“I killed it.”

Following his release, he was given an opportunity to play for College of DuPage.

After receiving team MVP and conference defensive MVP honors in junior college, he started hearing from bigger schools.

Illinois, though, was always at the top of his list because of his familiarity with the coaching staff.

“I’ve sat in my mom’s house, and Zook’s called my mom before to check on (Benn),” Henry said. “So I know what kind of guy I’m dealing with.”

Now a husband and father, Henry’s life is back on track. Although his wife and child will have to wait until the fall semester to move to Champaign, he’s adjusting to campus as one of three early enrolled recruits on the Illinois football team.

“The first day of class was probably better than the game because it was a huge class and I’ve never been in a huge class before like that,” Henry said. “I never even imagined. It felt weird, it felt like I was lost.”

He’s also worried about making a name for himself. After picking his number, though, he’s not off to a very good start.

“The only options were (Nos.) 4, 1, 7 and 9,” Henry said.

“I couldn’t wear 4 because Donsay wore 4 and we have the same kind of hair, both play the same position, it wouldn’t have been good. I would never wear 1, because it means too much. It’s a statement to wear 1.”

After freshman quarterback Chandler Whitmer expressed his desire to wear No. 7, Henry was left with one option, No. 9 — Benn’s former number.

So maybe the comparisons won’t go away for a while. But for now, Henry is just happy to have his life back on course and a chance to play D-I football.