Senior Tomas Henning has had an interesting season. A running back for his first three seasons in high school, he made a position switch to linebacker before his senior year. But when junior running back Hamid Bullie suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Henning returned to the offensive backfield. In Loyola’s 24-0 win over Huntley in the Class 8A quarterfinals, he had season highs in carries (9) and yards (47).
Maroon & Gold: What was your role last year as a junior?
Tomas Henning: I was a running back, but I got mononucleosis and was out for the entire regular season. I came back for the playoffs, and I did some special teams.
M&G: Although you played running back all three years at Loyola, you entered your senior year as a linebacker. What was your role at the start of the season?
TH: I’ve played a little at outside linebacker, but I’ve mostly played special teams on kickoffs, kick returns and punts.
M&G: When did you find out you were going to switch positions, and how did the coaching staff break the news to you?
TH: It was really late in the summer, right before the two-week preseason camp. I sat down with [running backs coach Ryan] Gallagher and [outside linebackers coach Mike] Dooley. They said the team needed more depth on the defensive side of the ball. I wasn’t too shocked because I had put on some weight in the offseason, and they hinted they might use me at linebacker. At the end of the day, I wanted to help the team and put us in the best position to win. That was the attitude I had.
M&G: You found out you’re playing linebacker about three weeks before the first game. Was it a difficult transition?
TH: It was a crazy couple of weeks. I was so comfortable playing running back. Then, all of sudden, I’m playing something completely different. The first day I sat and watched. The second day they threw me in there. I watched a lot of film, and the coaches all helped me out. It took me a couple of weeks before I started to pick it up. It’s a position I’m still learning about. The toughest part to learn is the positioning and the scheme. But also the mindset. It was weird looking at the offense for the first time.
M&G: At the start of the season, Bullie and senior Kyle Rock were co-starters at running back and shared the carries. How soon after Bullie got hurt did you find out you would be running the ball again?
TH: It was the Monday after the Brother Rice game that coach Gallagher talked to me about coming over to play running back. I was excited to get back at it. It’s a position where I feel comfortable. But I feel bad about Hamid.
M&G: What was it like to score your first touchdown of the season against O’Fallon in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs?
TH: It was definitely not something I thought would happen at the beginning of the season, unless I scored on defense or on special teams. It was really fulfilling.
M&G: Through 11 games, you had eight rushing attempts. You carried the ball nine times in the Huntley game, and the offense rushed for 312 yards. Describe the experience.
TH: It was nice to see more volume. I was able to get some yards, even when they stacked the box. The [O’Fallon] game I was cautious about holding on to the ball, but I allowed myself to loosen up against Huntley. I was less cautious and took more risks. I’m pretty excited for the next game. It’s always fun to run behind this offensive line.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott