The 18-year-old kid can sit in his bedroom in Brighton, Mich., or in his hotel room in Tampa, or—in a couple of weeks—his dorm room in Ann Arbor, Mich., and type his name on a computer. D-r-e-w H-e-n-s-o-n. He then can click on the SEARCH icon and the little Yahoo! engine will run around cyberspace for a moment and come back with the results, and once again the kid can be amazed.
Check it out. There are 161,256 matches—last count—for Drew Henson. They are not all necessarily about him, because the engine picks up some other Hensons and some other Drews along the way, but the bulk of them are. He can click and click again and a rush of nouns, verbs, adjectives and numbers will arrive, detailing his games, his accomplishments, his adolescent life. He can even stare at his own picture as it appears on the screen.
"It's interesting sometimes," he says. "You can read what people are saying about you. Read a story in The Sporting News, USA Today, someplace else.... Sometimes you read things and you say, 'Where'd they get that story?' "
Will he be the starting quarterback as a freshman for defending national co-champion Michigan when its season opens on Sept. 5 at Notre Dame? Some of the stories say this could happen. Yes, it could. Will he be the next young star in New York Yankees pinstripes, a power-hitting third baseman who someday could be trying to bring Roger Maris's record back home to the Bronx? Other stories say this could happen. Could he have passed on the football scholarship and done something else? Could he have gone in the first round of the June baseball draft as a fastball pitcher, a 95-mph strikeout wonder? Could he have gone to a Division I college as a blue-chip basketball recruit, possibly as a two guard? Could. Could. Could.
There was a time when an athletic phenom from high school arrived quietly, a rumor wrapped in a pile of clippings from a local newspaper and accompanied by a wink from a recruiter's eye. That time has passed. The phenom now is a bright light in the electronic sky, tracked relentlessly by forecasters as if he were a hurricane heading toward a coastal town. Where will he land? What will he do? One Web site, mu.mlive.com, already has a Drew Henson page, a tribute, with stories, stats from the Ann Arbor News and a fat headline that calls him MICHIGAN'S GOLDEN BOY.
"Do you know how there are all the stories these days about what's going to happen when Michael Jordan retires?" asks Mark Carrow, Henson's baseball coach at Brighton High. "About how there's going to be a void, an absence of superstars? I think Drew Henson is the one who can fill it, who can stand on that kind of pedestal. I honestly believe that."
Eighteen years old. Is this scary, or what? He probably is Michigan's most heralded in-state football recruit in history. ("The best ever?" the mu.mlive site asks.) He signed a contract with the New York Yankees last week that will give him a $2 million bonus for playing pro baseball only during the summers. If he leaves college at any time or decides to play baseball after graduation, he will receive another $2.7 million, making his signing bonus the second-highest for a rookie in the history of the game.
Eighteen. And this is only the beginning.
"I worked out with the Yankees a couple of weeks ago, when we were starting negotiations, and they were playing in Tampa," the kid says, describing his latest amazement. "I took some swings, ran in the outfield, came back to the dugout and sat down. I looked up and there was a circle of reporters around me. And I hadn't even done anything yet."
The immediate interest might be that he is 6'5", 220 pounds, still growing, and that he set national high school career records for home runs (70), grand slams (10), RBIs (290) and runs scored (250). That he was 40-7 as a pitcher and struck out 528 batters in 285⅔ innings. That he threw 52 touchdown passes, six in one game against Hartland in 1997 That he averaged 22 points in basketball, and on and on...a 4.0 student, co-valedictorian. But these are only the latest results. He always has been front and center in whatever he has done.