The Giants’ wide receivers were in a meeting last week when one of them started talking about some off-the-field issue he was having. It had to do with balancing work and life, making room for everything he wanted to do, prioritizing all of the things he had to do, and what he was going through.
The type of griping and complaining that happens in just about every cubicle and conference room in the country.
But Adam Henry had heard enough. Something bubbled up inside of him, probably subconsciously and without him even realizing, and it came out in his words. The second-year Giants receivers coach spoke from the heart. A wounded heart.
“I’m here and I’m working,” he told them with a few cracks of emotion in his voice. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, but I’m here. I’m here early and I leave late. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around me; I have a job to do and I’m going to do my job to the best of my ability.”
There was silence. Henry usually is so relaxed, so friendly. He’s a teacher and a confidant. A players’ coach. For him to flash that kind of intensity, to speak so sternly, got the attention of the group.
Wait. Stuff going on?
“They were like: ‘What’s going on?’ ” Henry recalled.
So he thought about it. Then he told them.
MIND ON FAMILY
Henry comes from a very large Texas family. For Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys, many of them will be there to support him and the Giants. “Thirty-five tickets,” he said of the group, which will include his parents, his three kids, his seven brothers and his sister. It’s like that each time Henry coaches a team in his home state. Last year, he was in Dallas for the homecoming with the Giants. The year before that, when he was an assistant with the 49ers, the team played in Houston, and that’s where the reunion took place.
“That’s normal,” he said. “My family has always been very supportive in sports and whatever we do. We’re very, very close.”
This time, though, the meeting will be anything but normal.
Most of Henry’s relatives live in Houston. In the flood. In the city that was inundated by Hurricane Harvey almost two weeks ago. They all got out — they fled to Dallas — but there was a lot of harrowing time before everyone was accounted for.
“When everybody starts going, ‘Let’s go to cover’ and your parents don’t want to go, you start thinking, ‘Um, OK, it’s time to go,’ ” Henry told Newsday this past week. “My brothers got them out. I had one brother [Frank] who didn’t go, so you think: What’s going to happen? He ended up being fine, but they had to go rescue him. There was an evacuation, and he couldn’t get out.
“The things that go through your head when you don’t know about safety,” he said, pausing. “That was low because I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my brother, I didn’t know what was happening.”
That’s because through all of it, Henry was in New Jersey with the Giants. The demands of his job are such that he couldn’t just go back home and pitch in. He couldn’t even work the phones trying to locate everyone in his vast family.
“I can’t just get on the phone when I want to,” he said. “I’m in meetings, I’m here. So you check your phone when you can. You make a call, there’s no answer, then you have to go back to meetings. It’s one of those things I just had to wait out.”
Eventually, everyone was together. Everyone except Adam Henry.
That final piece had to wait until this weekend when, serendipitously, the Giants will be playing the Cowboys in Dallas.
“It’ll be special,” he said of seeing everyone in person after the ordeal.
TO KEEP NEWS PRIVATE
The players had no clue about it until Henry told them. They knew he was from Beaumont, Texas, which is just northeast of Houston along the Gulf coast. They knew he played college ball at McNeese State, which is just over the Louisiana border. But they never put it all together, that the images they saw on the news and on social media in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey were originating from Henry’s home.
“He’s one of those guys who just comes to work every day and doesn’t really show much,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “He does a good job. Whenever he’s here, you hardly even notice that anything is wrong. It takes a strong-minded person to come to work every day and handle business and not show anything.”
It was appreciated.
“Adam is a pro,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “You certainly can’t tell that his family is down there in the mix of a hurricane and the aftermath of the hurricane with the way he handles his business.”
That was exactly what Henry wanted. Had he never slipped up in that meeting and mentioned that something was amiss in his life, he would have been just as happy. And he never gave any thought to leaving the team, even for a day.
“When football season is here, I’m locked in,” he said, noting that he missed two of his brothers’ weddings because they occurred during the season. “That’s just the nature of the beast. When football season comes, everything else shuts down. This is the life that I’ve chosen, the path to where I’m going. I know this is what I should be doing. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
‘BUT THERE’S JUST
SO MUCH WATER’
The news and the pictures are still coming into his phone on a daily basis.
“I have friends who are still there and they’re sending you pictures, everyday life without power, without food,” Henry said. “It’s a helpless situation. You just have to regroup.”
Just the other day, he heard from a friend that one of the high school football teams in Beaumont had gone back to practicing. The problem was that someone had to drive their practice uniforms several towns away so they could be laundered in clean water. Beaumont’s water supplies have been contaminated.
“You hear the stories, and most of the time they’re just stories,” he said. “But when you hear them and they’re personal and you know the people who are involved, it’s totally different . . . They send you pictures and they’re personal pictures. Not things that you see on the news or on the Internet.”
Photos of houses filled with water like aquariums. Horror stories of escape. Tragic stories, such as one of his childhood friends whose mother was one of the casualties of the storm.
Some of his cousins began getting electricity late last week. “But it’s on and off,” Henry said.
His friend Michael Nixon, with whom he grew up, is now a police detective in Beaumont. He shares his tales from the job, some of which are uplifting but most of which are soul-crushing.
“He says there has been a tremendous response, more so than Ike and Rita,” Henry said of past hurricanes that hit the area. “They’re doing a good job.
“But there’s just so much water.”
LENDING A HELPING HAND
IN TIME OF NEED
The last time a big hurricane hit, Henry was an assistant coach at McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana. That was Hurricane Rita in 2005. Henry evacuated to Auburn, Alabama, during the brunt of the storm but returned shortly thereafter as McNeese resumed its season. They practiced and played their games at Southeastern Louisiana State in nearby Hammond.
“Our whole stadium was under water,” he recalled.
It was almost easier, though, to be part of the action and not watching it from 1,600 miles away.
“Then I was into it, reaching out to players and things,” he said of his role during the cleanup from Rita. “Now it’s different because you get the text messages, you get the phone calls. How are you? Is everything OK? It’s different. Mentally, it’s different. It’s helpless. You want to do things.”
Henry is trying. Some of his former players have reached out, and he attempts to put them in touch with specific problems that he hears about. Such as the cop just out of the academy with two young kids whose roof was blown off his house. One of Henry’s former receivers stepped in and is taking care of that.
“They’re helping,” Henry said. “That’s always good, helping families with immediate needs. It’s more personal. You know exactly who you’re helping and who it’s going to.”
Others are doing their part, too, on a broader scale. Odell Beckham Jr., who was coached by Henry at LSU as well as with the Giants, started a fundraising effort with a donation of $100,000 last week. The Mara and Tisch families, owners of the Giants, made a $1-million donation on behalf of the franchise.
“[Henry] knows we are a family-first organization and anything that Adam needs, or the players whose families are involved in any of these situations need, we have resources to help and lend a hand if need be,” McAdoo said.
Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, who went to high school in Houston, is taking part in a celebrity tele thon — organized by Beaumont rapper Bun B and featuring other celebrities — that will take place Tuesday across all of the television networks. And most notable, perhaps, has been Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s fundraising, which started out hoping to reach $200,000 and has eclipsed $30 million.
Right now, Henry said, the things that are needed most in the area are cleaning supplies. Gloves, brooms, bleach.
“They have nothing,” Henry said. “How can you clean your home when everything in your home is lost? When you have to gut it out? The mess is there — how do we clean up the mess?”
HENRY FAMILY REUNION
This was supposed to be a big weekend for Henry. Not only are the Giants playing the Cowboys, not only is he going to see his family, but he is being inducted into the McNeese State Hall of Fame, too. The timing could not have been better. He had planned to drive there for a brief ceremony yesterday before heading back to Dallas to join the team.
“The line between Texas and Louisiana you can’t really cross because of the water,” he said. “They closed I-10.”
He still was hoping to figure out a way to get there late this week, to stop by his alma mater, even just for a few minutes. And then he would meet up with the rest of the Henrys in Dallas.
Some of them returned to Houston late last week to assess the damage to their homes and take stock of what they’ll need. There will be a lot of work to do, a lot of cleaning and rebuilding.
“Things like that you try to navigate through,” Henry said. “It’s tough.”
But those who went to Houston also will be coming back to Dallas to take part in what has become a family tradition. This one, of course, will be more special than some of the others. Just because they’ll all be there. All safe. There were times during the past two weeks when no one was certain that would be possible.
“It’s one of those things where you text and go back and forth and it kind of hits home,” Henry said of the importance of loved ones. “It’s just such a blessing to have your family and everyone safe in the midst of everything that’s going on.
“With all the tragedies, to have your family safe is a big deal.”