Michigan showed once again that it is the dominant football recruiter in the area by picking up an oral commitment on Wednesday from Lincoln-Way East all-purpose standout AJ Henning.
The Wolverines now have locked up the top-ranked Illinois recruit in three straight recruiting classes. Crystal Lake South offensive tackle Trevor Keegan was No. 1 in the Class of 2019, according to 247sports.com, while Henning is tops in the Class of 2020 and Nazareth quarterback JJ McCarthy leads the Class of 2021.
Henning announced his college choice in a Twitter video, saying, “I dreamed of this moment. This is my time.” He talked about the concept of “home,” which he defined as “unconditional love, nurtured dreams and unlimited encouragement. ... Home is the love I’ll feel from 110,000 screaming fans when I step into the Big House. Home is the University of Michigan. I’m coming home.”
Henning helped Lincoln-Way East win the Class 8A state title in 2017 with a breakout performance: 17 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game against Loyola.
He followed that up by winning a pair of Class 3A state track medals in 2018, but was slowed by injuries last football season and did not return to track competition till this spring.when he won a second medal in the 100 meters.
Henning’s dual-threat capability as a runner and receiver already has McCarthy, his future teammate, thinking big.
“I am so happy for AJ,” McCarthy said. “He had some amazing schools to pick from and I am so glad he chose Michigan. Coach (Josh) Gattis, (Michigan’s offensive coordinator), is going to use his versatility in so many ways.”
Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvionar said at last weekend’s Richards 7-on-7 event -- which Henning missed while visiting Michigan -- that the senior is healthy and ready to go.
“For him personally, (that’s) what I’m most concerned with,” Zvonar said. “The fact that he was able to go down and place fourth in the 100 meters, running (10.73), and practiced healthy every day of our camp -- as much as for our team, I just very happy for him. Even in his sophomore year he had (the injury). He overcame it to make huge plays to help us win a state championship.
“Going through what he had to deal with last year was tough and it’s going to be a lot of fun when he’s the guy who can play week to week, the whole game.”