On December 17, 2009 the city of Cincinnati and the Bengals franchise were devastated to hear the news that Chris Henry had passed away. According to police records, on the night before his death, Henry and his fiancée, Loleini Tonga, got into a disagreement in Charlotte, N.C. Tonga left the domestic dispute by getting into a pickup truck when Henry apparently jumped into the back of the truck as she drove away. Henry was either thrown from the truck or he fled the vehicle while it was in motion and that resulted in numerous injuries. Henry died the next day at the age of 26.
An autopsy later concluded that Henry died of a number of head injuries which included a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.
Henry is remembered by family and friends as a loving father and son. The Belle Chasse High School product was as tenacious on the field as he was kind off of it. Henry went on to attend West Virginia in 2003 where he grew into a star by recording 93 receptions for 1,878 yards with 22 touchdown receptions through the 2004 season. Bengals’ owner Mike Brown took a chance on Henry by selecting him 83rd overall, in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft.
In his rookie campaign, Henry played a pivotal role in the Bengals’ offense as he helped lead the team to their first playoff berth in 14 years. Trouble began to cloud Henry after the 2006 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The league began to crack down on personal conduct in 2007 and NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell suspended Henry for half of the 2007 season.
The Bengals released Henry after he was arrested for a fifth time. Shortly after, Brown gave Henry a second chance. Brown had recognized the evolution in the young man who was beginning to mature. Henry went on to play in 12 games for the Bengals in 2008.
During his five-year career with the Bengals, Henry recorded 119 receptions for 1,826 yards and 21 touchdown receptions.
Before his passing, Henry seemed to be turning his personal life around. Henry was making better decisions about the people he surrounded himself with and he was no longer getting into trouble with the law. Henry had plans to marry his fiancée and be a better father for his three children.
After his death, Henry’s brain was donated to research at the Institute of West Virginia University. It was later discovered that Henry had developed a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy during his playing career. This was the result of multiple hard hits to the head. Henry was believed to be the first still-active player to have the disease. Many former NFL players had been discovered to have the disease after their deaths.
Henry’s mother, Carolyn Glaspy, decided to donate his organs for transplant. Henry’s corneas, lungs, heart, liver, and pancreas were transplanted, saving the lives of four people. We were shocked when we found out that Henry had passed away in 2009, and six years later we honor his life by remembering him and the person he was to those close to him.