Former Cincinnati Bengals backup tackle Anthony Collins is still thinking about wide receiver Chris Henry, who died on Dec. 17, 2009, several hours after an automobile accident in which Henry sustained massive trauma to the head. According to police reports, Henry fell out of the bed of a truck that his fiancee Loleini Tonga was driving during a dispute.
Greg Auman with the Tampa Bay Times writes that "Collins wears a white T-shirt with a picture of his friend" at most practices and games. Collins has a photograph of Henry...
...taped above his locker, a constant reminder that everything he has, in football and in life, can disappear.
"When I say I want to give thanks for being here on this earth, what I'm basically saying is 'Thank you, Lord, for letting me meet somebody like Chris, to show me who I need to be like,' " said Collins, a teammate of Henry's from 2007-09 who joined the Bucs this season and faces his old team Sunday.
Auman continues writing a touching story about the friendship between Henry and Collins.
"He came in one day, saw me sitting by myself and came and hollered at me," he said. "We just hit it off, clicked tight. I knew his family, he knew my family. .… We lost a good person. I was happy to know him."
"What I've seen in all my life, you don't have too many people that you come across who are always 100 percent with you, always telling you the truth," he said. "Chris (was) the same person when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night, every day of the week."
Collins, a former fourth-rounder who Cincinnati grabbed during the '08 NFL draft, spent six seasons in Cincinnati before signing a five-year deal worth $30 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Michael Johnson, another former Bengal that signed with Tampa Bay during the offseason, reflects on the season that Henry died, which included the passing of Vikki Zimmer -- Mike Zimmer's wife.
"It made us a lot closer. That was a close group of guys up there," said Johnson, via the Tampa Bay Times. "(Henry) was a great guy. I think he had really turned the corner, as a professional, as a man. It was so unfortunate when that happened."
Cincinnati played in New Orleans this season, near Henry's hometown. The Bengals invited Henry's mother, who now lives in Cincinnati, to New Orleans, but it was still too much for her, so she declined. Domata Peko dedicated the 27-10 win to Henry.
In the middle of his red tie, Bengals defensive lineman Domata Peko wore a small black pin with the No. 15 on it for former teammate Chris Henry. Peko said he hadn't been to New Orleans since attending Henry's funeral, and couldn't stop thinking about his friend ever since the team arrived here on Saturday. "I was thinking about him this whole time and I dedicate this win to him," Peko said.