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Aliquippa's Henry picks West Virginia over Pitt

| Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 1:24 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa senior Dravon Henry listens to his mother, Shanell, as he answers questions after he committed to play football at West Virginia as a birthday surprise Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, at the Aliquippa Municipal Building.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa senior Dravon Henry smiles after committing to play football at West Virginia as a birthday surprise for his mother Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, at the Aliquippa Municipal Building.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa's Dravon Henry catches a pass in front of South Fayette's Roman Denson during the fourth quarter of the WPIAL Class AA championship game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Dravon Henry - Aliquippa football 2013
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Aliquippa senior Dravon Henry hugs his mother, Shanell, after committing to play football at West Virginia as a birthday surprise Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, at the Aliquippa Borough Building.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Shanell Henry celebrates as her son, Aliquippa senior Dravon Henry, puts on a hat while committing to play football at West Virginia as a birthday surprise Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, at the Aliquippa Municipal Building.

Shanell Henry makes no apologies for her diligence in ensuring Dravon, her first born, finds the university that is best for him.

“I call myself a little detective,” she said.

The results of her self-described “investigation” surfaced Monday when Aliquippa star Dravon Henry, the most heavily recruited senior in the WPIAL, said he will attend West Virginia.

Henry, who will play defensive back after rushing for an Aliquippa record 5,454 career yards, chose the Mountaineers over 40 scholarship offers that he whittled to three finalists, including Pitt and Miami.

He made the announcement at the Aliquippa Municipal Building where he struggled briefly to control his emotions.

“This process was hard,” he said. “I'm so nervous right now. I'm scared.”

In the end, he chose the Mountaineers because of his close relationship with West Virginia safeties coach Tony Gibson, a former Pitt assistant.

“It felt like home when he was talking to me,” said Henry, a four-star prospect. “I didn't have that feeling at Pitt. No offense to coach (Matt) House (Pitt's defensive coordinator). I hope we can still have a friendship. I don't want anybody hating me because I didn't go to their school.”

Gibson won over Henry's parents (Roland and Shanell), too.

“My mom was tough,” Henry said. “She asked some hard questions.”

Shanell refused to reveal the substance of her talks with Gibson, House and Miami defensive backs coach Paul Williams. But she said Gibson had all the right answers.

“Just the look in his eyes,” she said. “He was real straight-forward. He was not trying to give us a dream that Dravon was going to start.”“He was poised, pretty honest and we grilled him for a good 2 12 hours,” Roland Henry said.

Shanell said she also spoke to some Pitt players who were unhappy with the program.

“They were saying that the coaching staff is not on one accord and they are not consistent,” she said. “We didn't want to be involved in a program that wasn't balanced.”

Henry plans to play as a freshman, but he said he wants to earn the right.

“Coach Gibson told me you can start, but ‘It's up to you.' Every other college, they told me, 'We need you.' ”

Henry said Gibson's reputation for developing defensive backs was important.

“I want to go to the NFL, and I think that's my best shot. Coach Gibson has sent 14 defensive backs to the NFL. That's a lot.”

Henry, who visited former Pitt defensive back and fellow Aliquippa graduate Darrelle Revis last weekend in Tampa, Fla., is friends with West Virginia running back Rushel Shell, who left Pitt this year. He said Shell did not try to persuade him.

“He didn't have anything bad to say about Pitt,” Henry said.

Shell, however, tweeted congrats to Henry, which could be seen as a minor recruiting violation by the NCAA. A WVU spokesman said the school notified its compliance office.

Losing Henry puts pressure on Pitt to land three other local four-star prospects: Washington's Shai McKenzie, Mt. Lebanon's Alex Bookser and Gateway's Montae Nicholson.

“It's a really tough blow for Pitt,” said recruiting analyst Jared Shanker of ESPN, which ranks Henry as the best player in the state. “The Panthers can't afford to lose elite WPIAL players especially from Aliquippa. Plus, the Panthers need defensive help especially in the secondary.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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