DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — If you ask around the folks at a Deerfield Beach High School football practice about Class of 2020 Pitt wide receiver commit Aydin Henningham, you might get a response that goes something like:
“You mean that boy from up Delray?”
Delray Beach is about 12 miles north of Deerfield Beach. Henningham transferred into the Deerfield program after his sophomore year.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver fit in just fine, making the transition to the “Beach Boys” as the Deerfield squad is affectionately nicknamed.
As for why Henningham is singled out for being originally from out of town, well you can’t just say, “the Division I wide receiver.” Deerfield had four this past season.
Following in the footsteps of Alabama star Jerry Jeudy, Henningham joined Bryce Gowdy (Georgia Tech), Deajaun McDougle (Maryland) and Xavier Restrepo (Miami) as Division I-bound wide receivers on the Bucks’ 2019 squad.
Along with running back Jaylan Knighton (Miami) and quarterback Michael Pratt (Tulane), the talented offense led Deerfield to a fifth straight district title.
Winning titles and turning high school players into collegiate and pro athletes is something of a tradition at Deerfield Beach. NFLers Stockar McDougal, Jason Pierre-Paul and Denard Robinson all came out of Deerfield, as did current Pitt defensive end Deslin Alexandre and a number of other current players.
So when Henningham made the transfer down Florida’s Atlantic Coast, he knew he was in for a greater challenge.
“Yeah, I belong here,” Henningham said. “At first, it was like ah? Coach [Jevon] Glenn and all the other players pushed me, and now I feel like I fit in pretty well.
“When I first came here my sophomore year, I saw it from the older guys and see how they roll. It runs in Deerfield. Players are coming in and out and graduating early. It’s the tradition over here. We are just trying to keep it rolling over here – day in and day out.”
With four Division I-bound receivers, the competition for the attention of Pratt was fierce, but Henningham enjoyed how it made the every bring their A game in practice every day.
“I mean, we get the ball around to everybody and make sure everybody eats,” he said. “The quarterback has to make sure all of us get the ball in our hands, so everybody eats. … Every time we do 1-on-1s, it’s competitive.”
Glenn spent eight years coaching Deerfield’s junior varsity squad before being promoted to take the head coaching job in 2015.
“Coach Glenn told me that effort is key,” Henningham said. “No matter how bad it is, or how good you play, it depends on effort, effort, effort. It’s 100% every play and don’t take any plays off. Because you never know when they might need you so, it’s just effort, 100% every play.”
Now Henningham hopes to take those lessons learned in the hyper-competitive environment at Deerfield and turn them into success at the next level, as so many other have before him.
“Coming in (to Pitt), and going to work — that’s my mindset,” said Henningham, who plans to enroll in January. “When I come in, I’m going to work. No playing around, just going to work.”
Pitt wasn’t the only school that wanted Henningham. He had offers from Florida, Ohio State and LSU, amongst others. But a familiar face and the efforts of lead recruiter Charlie Partridge made Pitt feel like a home for Henningham.
“[Partridge is] a funny guy,” Henningham said. “I talk to him all the time. He’s one of my favorite coaches. All the coaches are my favorites, but me and Partridge got that connection. Its just Partridge being Partridge. We talk all the time.”
When Henningham arrived in Pittsburgh for his official visit in June, it immediately felt like a potential place he could see himself playing.
“It was just a home when I got there,” he said. “Everything, just the coaches showing love, players showing love. It was just amazing, and I loved it.”
Additionally, Henningham’s host for his visit was someone he needed no introduction to. Sophomore Pitt running back V’Lique Carter and Henningham grew up playing little league football together.
“We already had that connection from little league,” Henningham said. “So, coming in, it was just like that’s my dog. [We knew each other] Since I was like 7 or 8. He was always on the higher [level] than me, so I just watched him play and all of that.”
Watching Carter have immediate success at the next level as a freshman in 2018 gave Henningham confidence that he could do the same. Not that lack of confidence was ever an issue for him.
“My mindset is that I can do even better,” he said with a smile.
Playing for a championship squad, with a bunch of other Division I players will do that. And if things go as planned, Henningham and his Beach Boys brethren might have a shot at some next-level reunions, as well, with Knighton, Gowdy and Restrepo all slated to play in the ACC opposing Henningham’s Panthers.
“We talked about it all the time in practice,” Henningham said. “Saying like ‘Oh, we are going to do this to Georgia Tech or Pitt.’ You know, just clowning and laughing about it. I mean, it’s a great feeling.
“All of us are going to meet up one day after the game. It’s just fun knowing that we are going to play against each other soon.”