BY RAPHAEL GOODSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 26, 2001
Michigan starting quarterback Drew Henson is quitting the football team after his junior season to play third base for the New York Yankees.
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Henson held a press conference Saturday in his home town of Brighton to announce the decision.
"I knew that I would eventually need to make a choice between two sports that I love," Henson said. "And since I did not know when that day would come I spent the last few years preparing myself to make the best decision, whatever that may be."
Henson, who was drafted by the Yankees after high school and traded last summer to the Cincinnati Reds, will now return to the Yankees the team he"s always dreamed of playing for.
Henson has played minor league ball during the summer since he has been at Michigan, and for much of that time, there has been speculation that he would choose one sport over the other. After Michigan"s season-ending Citrus Bowl victory, Henson had said he would return for his final season.
"In a perfect world, I could have finished my football career here at Michigan, and then gone on to play third base for the Yankees," Henson said this weekend. "But it"s been made clear to me that the opportunity presenting itself at this time will no longer be there next January.
"Both my desire to continue to play football and complete my degree at Michigan is why I turned down previous offers from the Yankees. But I cannot risk doing it now."
Henson will report today to the Yankees" spring training in Tampa, Fla., where he will sign a contract so he can concentrate solely on baseball.
He told his teammates goodbye Saturday at Schembechler Hall, and those who were there wished him well.
Football coach Lloyd Carr reportedly was disappointed with Henson"s decision and lectured his team on the importance of graduating but did express support for his former quarterback.
"We wish him well," Carr said in a written statement.
Though the decision will likely mar Henson"s opportunity to become a legendary Michigan football player, Henson hopes his fans will understand.
"I don"t expect every Michigan fan to understand my decision to pursue baseball at this time," Henson said. "But hopefully this statement will help you to realize my perspective.
"There is no other option available to me. Leaving my teammates, coaches, and the chance to be part of another championship team at Michigan, will prove to be the biggest sacrifice, to me, that I will have to make not the possibility of individual achievements, including being a potential first-round (NFL) pick and a Heisman Trophy candidate."
NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper had Henson rated as the No. 1 rated pro prospect returning next year.
Henson did say that he plans to return to Michigan one day to finish his degree.
"I will keep the memories of my Michigan experience close to my heart always, and will take great pride in the day I complete my degree and become an alumnus of the University I love so much."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.