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Steven Henry’s photo and list of accomplishments resides within the Emporia State University hall of fame located in Cremer hall. He was inducted in 1989 and is recognized for football and men’s track and field.

When traveling to the Sacred Heart Parish to repair a handicap automatic door, Steven Henry’s vehicle was hit. He died at the scene.

On March 18, 2021, police found themselves in a high-speed chase on W. Sixth Avenue in Emporia, Kansas. As police worked to stop the vehicle, Henry was approached. 

The driver in the pursuit, Devawn Mitchell, hit Henry, resulting in his death. Henry was 64.

On Tuesday Jan. 25, Mitchell was convicted of murder and several other charges after a two-day bench trial, according to the Emporia Gazette. 

As the trial has now ended and the one-year anniversary of his death approaches, many have contemplated Henry’s life and how his last moments reflect who he truly was.

Henry was an accomplished athlete when he attended Emporia State. In football, Henry started all four years as a defensive back. According to the ESU Hall of Fame directory, in 1978, Henry was named first-team all-CSIC and District 10, Emporia State University “Player of The Year,” and honorable mention all-American, as voted by The Sporting News. 

He was later recognized by professional teams and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. He played defensive back three years in the National Football League (NFL).

His name resides within the ESU hall of fame to this day. However, according to those close to him, he never bragged about these accomplishments. After playing in the NFL, he left athletics behind to work at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant and focused on time with his family here in Emporia.

Aside from his work and family, Henry was also dedicated to his parish where he volunteered alongside parish catechist Blake Vajgrt.

“Growing up I thought I would make it to the NFL,” Vajgrt said. “And then to hear someone that had lived that life and participated in the league say ‘No, I want to work at a nuclear power plant more than I want to try to chase a spot on the roster’ just kind of is a testament to the man that Steve was.”

Not long before the accident, Henry spoke to a youth group at the Sacred Heart parish.

Henry presented many of his mementos from the time of his football career which left students in awe, according to Vajgrt. However, his most proud possession didn’t come from the football field.

“The last thing he pulled out of his bag was the crucifix that was on his door,” Vajgrt said. “He (Henry) said ‘out of everything that you’ve seen tonight this is the most important thing. It’s the last thing I see when I leave and the first thing I see when I get home.’”

Others that worked closely with Henry in the church knew of his commitment to his faith as well. 

“Steven was an amazing person,” said Marcie Logsdon, pastoral and administrative assistant of Sacred Heart. “Those who knew him were and continue to be greatly affected by his tragic death.  His faith in God and Jesus Christ as our savior was something he proudly shared with

others.”

Outside of the church, he kept close relationships with those who shared his love of football such as ESU’s football head coach Garin Higgins. 

During practices, Henry would come speak with Higgins to see how the team was doing. 

“If you just met him, you would never know that he played in the NFL because he doesn’t talk about it,” Higgins said. “It’s not like he brings it up.” 

Higgins was among the many who felt the initial shock of Henry’s death.

“I remember coming in here after practice and sitting in that chair right there and one of my assistant coaches coming in and telling me that they had heard that he was in an accident it felt like it had to be someone else I just didn’t believe it,” Higgins said. 

Henry’s legacy is now honored as each year, one ESU football player will be chosen to receive the Steven Henry Award, the only award given throughout the year. The player given this award is one who exemplifies the qualities Henry had on and off the field, according to Higgins.

“That’s the thing about him, he was all about serving others,” Higgins said. “We wanted to do something different where we could kind of carry on his

legacy.”

This year, out of 120 players, Jayce McDown received this award. Steven Henry’s wife Becky Henry is a part of the committee that oversees the nominees and chooses the recipient. 

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