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Consider this the obligatory Drew Henson column for the year.

Mira Levitan

In case you missed it on Monday, ESPN reported that Henson – the Golden Boy-turned rich New York Yankees prospect-turned baseball failure – is ready to leave the diamond so he can refocus on a football career.

After initially deciding not to forgo his senior season at Michigan for the NFL, Henson then stunned everyone back in 2001, signing a five-year contract with the Yankees worth $17 million over six years. The contract included a clause that Henson give up football.

But after three miserable years in the Yankee farm system – including this year where he batted just .234 in 133 games, including 122 strikeouts and 28 errors at third base – Henson has reportedly figured out that he should explore his NFL options.

That means giving back $12 million in salary to the Yankees for the next three years. That means giving up the sport that Henson always “dreamed” of playing.

And most importantly, that means Henson has now quit both college football and minor league baseball.

Or, to put it in terms Henson might grasp easier, that’s strike two.

Strike one came back when he pulled that Barry Sanders-esque bail on the Michigan football team.

Now Drew has swung and missed again, bombing in the Yankees’ minor leagues.

So, if I may offer a suggestion to Henson, here it is: You had better take a mighty rip at the NFL because you’re down to your last hack.

Who knows why Drew left – maybe he did really love baseball that much. Or maybe the promise of a $17 million check in his wallet was too much to pass up.

Whatever the situation was, the can’t-miss two-sport prospect is hanging on by a thread.

The NFL’s Houston Texans took a stab at Henson in this year’s draft, claiming his rights in hopes of this exact situation unfolding.

But, and perhaps not surprisingly, rumor now has it that Henson would sit out of the NFL this year, not sign with the Texans, and then reenter the draft next year where he would, no doubt, be subject to receiving more money.

By that time, Henson will be 24 years old and have been out of football for four years. Any team taking him would do so in hopes that the former phenom could regain the form he displayed in his years in Ann Arbor.

Any team taking him, though, would also have to hold its breath because Henson’s NFL success is far from a guarantee.

And, whether it’s fair or not, that seems to be the legacy Henson is leaving himself throughout the sports world.

He left Michigan not as a great quarterback, but someone who deserted a Wolverine team that had more than enough talent to make a national title run.

He now leaves the Yankees as a player who used to be a five-tool future star, but struggled for three years and doesn’t want to struggle anymore.

It’s sad and disappointing how far Henson has fallen. He’s no longer the worshiped hero he once was when he was slinging balls all over Michigan Stadium to David Terrell, Anthony Thomas and the rest. Henson’s talent at that time was overwhelming. He had speed, he had an arm that legends are made of, and he had the NFL scouts drooling.

Now he has Michigan fans loathing him, Yankees fans experiencing buyer’s remorse, and teams in the NFL hoping he can still be great, but inevitably unsure if he will be.

Henson has to know how gray his situation has become. His one and only option now is to work like crazy for the next year, and then keep that effort alive if and when he makes an NFL roster.

This is the last crack at a home run for the former superstar.

You’ll have to forgive Wolverine and Yankees fans if they’re expecting a strikeout.


Chris Burke can be reached at chrisbur@umich.edu.

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