Of the 32 receptions Devon Hensley made last football season, there are those the Center Grove senior can rewind in his mind faster than others.
For example, during a 42-10 victory at defending Class 6A state champion Lawrence Central in a driving rainstorm, Hensley at one point horizontally extended his 6-foot frame to its fullest for an over-the-shoulder grab.
His toes touched down mere inches or less from the sideline, the football snugly in his possession.
Another favorite of Hensley’s is the 30-yard touchdown grab he made late in the third quarter of a 56-14 Class 6A regional rout of visiting Southport.
“Devon is a human highlight reel. He can make great things seem so simple,” 16th-year Center Grove coach Eric Moore said of Hensley, who led the Trojans in catches, yards (528) and touchdowns (seven) for a team that had a a total of 14 players with at least one reception.
“He is definitely the best receiver I’ve coached since I’ve been in Indiana,” Moore said. “His hands are immaculate. His level of concentration and hand-eye coordination is amazing.”
These qualities also are on display every spring where Hensley bats lead-off and roams center field for the Trojans’ baseball program.
Naturally, this begs the question whether Hensley is a football player playing baseball or a baseball player playing football, the one certainty being he excels at both.
“I think I’m a baseball player who plays football, but ... I’ve been playing baseball since first grade and football since second grade,” said Hensley, who hit .306 with four doubles, two home runs and team-highs in runs scored (27) and steals (14). “Playing baseball definitely helps with your hand-eye coordination (in football) and staring at the ball while running.”
Utilized primarily as a possession receiver as a junior, Hensley’s speed wasn’t showcased nearly as much as it will be this fall now that Matt O’Brien and Justin Veteto — the latter being the state 300-meter intermediate hurdles champion — have graduated.
He’ll also help break in a new starting quarterback, as junior Joey Siderewicz takes over for two-year starter Luke Calvert.
“Luke’s pocket presence was outstanding, and he was very accurate,” Hensley said. “Joey is good. Very agile and very quick. If he starts scrambling I’ll have to break off some routes, while with Luke I just ran my routes.
“I’m definitely OK with that challenge. I love playing receiver. Just going up, catching the football and competing.”
Hensley, a former quarterback and occasional running back in his pre-high school days, is all about catching the football now. Sometimes, it’s almost been too much about catching the football.
“He goes after every stinking ball. I’ve seen him catching balls five, six yards out of bounds at practice, and I’m like, ‘OK, we know you’re good, but don’t put yourself in a bad situation,’” Moore said, laughing. “Devon is a fun player to coach. A kid who just has total respect for the game.”
It works the other way, too.
With Center Grove starting its season Friday night at home against defending Class 6A state champion Warren Central, rest assured members of the Warriors’ extremely athletic defensive secondary will know No. 5’s whereabouts at all time.
It might require some leaps and dives for Hensley to create separation, but he’s up for the task. After all, the human highlight reel can always use new footage.