COEBURN, Va. (WJHL) — In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Braedon Hensley, a junior football player at Eastside High School.
It’s been a while since these kids have hit the gridiron.
“We’ve been waiting so long to play,” Eastside high school football junior Braedon Hensley said.
While Tennessee high schools played football in the fall, Virginia schools had to sit around and wait until the spring.
“It’s kinda good cause you had football year round we’re just happy to get to play and get out there and do what the kids love,” Eastside head football coach Mike Rhodes said.
Instead of just sitting on the couch, the Eastside football team used last year’s COVID-19 shutdown to continue to get better.
“The biggest thing is we hit the weight room really hard when everyone was quarantined they would be out there with cinder blocks or tires or anything they could find around the home several of them went out and bought some weights and we really just tried to get bigger and strong,” Rhodes said.
Junior Braedon Hensley did just that: bought some weights and got to work.
“With the weight rack I bought I was always lifting I have a teammate that lives right down the road and he would lift with me I’d go and pick him up and we would lift together we always strived to be when we got back on the field a whole lot better than we were last year,” Hensley said.
But that wasn’t his only quarantine activity. He’s been mowing yards for his lawncare business he’s had since he was in 9th grade.
“It has really taken off in the last two or three years it’s a good source of income for me right now since I’m young it keeps me from going and getting a part time job at a grocery store or something like that and I can constantly be doing side jobs and normal work outside,” Hensley said.
He keeps up 50 yards of lawns from Pound to Gate City, so he’s got to have a good music selection.
“I mostly like to listen to rock music or rap sometimes country depends on how hot you are or whatever sometimes you’re ready to just get the job done and get out,” Hensley said.
Here’s the kicker: he used the money he made from mowing to buy the weight rack himself, to put the work back in for football.
“I got 300 pounds of weights the barbell the rack the bench there were a lot of times we had nothing to do so we just went and lifted,” Hensley said.
“Just for a kid to take it upon himself and be able to think how can I do it and find out a way and make it happen he did it all on his own his money he went out and earned it and went out and got it because he knew where he wanted to be,” Rhodes said.
Hensley’s motivation started right when he got to Eastside, worked to become a starter on varsity at the end of his freshman year, but the 2nd game of his sophomore year had a setback.
“The man was running the ball down the sideline I was one step away from getting a pretty good hit on him and then got blocked in the back and hit the sideline and twisted the ankle I went to the orthopedic the next day and found out I had to have surgery and two screws put into my ankle,” Hensley said.
“He was running on a play and kinda got blindsided and fell awkwardly and foot kinda got caught and you know it was a football play,” Rhodes said.
Hensley missed the rest of his sophomore season, kept rehabbing through quarantine to get back at it.
“I did not want to get any weaker from my ankle injury I got pretty weak in my legs and I’ve built my legs back up the way I wanted to and I’m still not stopping,” Hensley said.
“It never slowed him down he kept lifting he couldn’t do much with his legs with he did with his upper body everything we were doing and more and then this offseason as soon as he was cleared he was back at it 100 percent going as hard as he could go,” Rhodes said.
“We’d run through drills in the yard run 40 yard dashes anything and everything it took to be better than we were last year,” Hensley said.
He did everything he could to be ready, and he was in his first game back, getting 19 tackles in the season opener.
“I was just ready to hit somebody it was one after another I really underestimated myself and my strength I was just ready to hit and get back at it,” Hensley said.
“A kid that’s been through what he’s been through to have that level of success and they had a hard time blocking him I mean 19 tackles from a defensive lineman and two sacks that’s almost unheard of so he was able to control the line of scrimmage and help eliminate their run game,” Rhodes said.
This new spring season is an interesting obstacle for teams to handle, but Hensley knows how to power through and it’ll help the Spartans this year.
“Our goals are to go 6-0 and go to the playoffs and go to state and we’re ready for it,” Hensley said.
“We’ve kinda taken the motto of ‘so what now what’ so no matter what comes our way it is what it is we have to deal with it so in order for us to get where we want to get we have to keep battling through it and do what we gotta do to get there and the ultimate goal is to play football so whatever we gotta do to play football that’s what we’re gonna do,” Rhodes said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.