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Henton happy to be in the 'Boro
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Former Peach County High School star Antonio Henton is reuniting with his former coach, current Georgia Southern University offensive coordinator Rance Gillespie. - photo by Special to the Herald

Stretching down his right forearm, the cursive, all capital letters read “born.”

Identical permanent ink also graces his left forearm, which states “blessed.”

And in a nutshell, “born blessed” is precisely how Antonio Henton feels about the opportunity he’s been given to play football and go to college. He also shares that sentiment regarding the newest chapter in his life, which officially began Monday when he enrolled at Georgia Southern.

The former Ohio State quarterback’s decision to part ways with the Buckeyes wasn’t entirely easy, especially because it meant leaving his girlfriend behind. He started tossing around the idea following spring practice, knowing his chances for playing time might decrease after Ohio State signed a highly touted high school quarterback.

Once he decided to transfer, choosing a school was a no-brainer.

“I felt like if I was going to (go) somewhere it’d be close to home, and Georgia Southern — wow — what a great place to be,” Henton said Wednesday afternoon.

Reuniting with his Peach County High School coach Rance Gillespie, who is now GSU’s offensive coordinator, had a major impact on the decision. Playing in Georgia would also allow his family to attend more games. During his two years with the Buckeyes, Henton’s parents were able to journey from middle Georgia to Ohio only once. He’s thrilled to return to his home state, even with its blazing summer heat.

“The weather feels good, and just being back here in Georgia makes me think about the things I left here like my family,” said Henton, who’ll wear jersey No. 7. He initially chose No. 17 but switched late Wednesday afternoon. Eagle fans hope No. 7 will be symbolic of Henton helping bring home another national championship, which would be the Georgia Southern’s seventh.

Henton worked out with his new teammates for the first time Tuesday during voluntary 7-on-7 drills. He likes what he’s seen so far, particularly the willingness of the quarterbacks to help him learn the ropes. Though he’ll battle them for the starting job, all of his questions were answered without hesitation.

“I’m glad they don’t look at me like an enemy, like some guy who comes in with a big head,” said Henton, who grew up in Fort Valley. “Everything’s been positive. There have been more positive things than negative, and I really like that. (My teammates) have been there to help me. We had a good feel for each other.”

Henton, the 2005 Georgia offensive player of the year, redshirted the 2006 season at Ohio State and was used off the bench in four games last year. Despite limited game experience, playing for a major university with a huge fan base taught Henton a lot about life.

“I learned that on the field you’ve just got to compete each and every day,” he said. “One day you might have a starting job and the next day you won’t.”

Henton also learned his share of lessons off the field where an arrest garnered plenty of unwanted publicity and caused him to miss most of last season. He eventually pled guilty to a minor misdemeanor count of loitering for prostitution, but sources close to the situation who viewed a video of the arrest said Henton was clearly setup by police and pressured into pleading to a lesser charge.

“Off the field you’ve just got to be careful,” Henton said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.”

GSU coach Chris Hatcher said the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Henton will start at the bottom of the depth chart and have to work his way up. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can dash 40 yards in 4.57 seconds.

“I feel like I can bring a lot of things,” he said. “I feel like we can win games. I hope we win, and I hope everybody here wants to win. That’s a key thing.”

Securing the starting job will mean beating out redshirt freshman Lee Chapple and sophomore Kyle Collins. Henton’s arrival will surely heat up the position battle.

“It’s going to take a lot of commitment, effort, time and a lot of consistency,” Henton said. “I’ve got to have a great practice every day. I can’t afford to have a bad practice or I’ll be staying down at the bottom of the depth chart.”

The Eagles report for fall camp July 30 and open the season Aug. 30 at Georgia. Kickoff has been set for 12:30 p.m.