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How Hunter Henry Pays Dividends When it Counts Most

Hunter Henry reached up in the back of the end zone to catch a perfect pass from Philip Rivers for a touchdown.

It was the exact same route that Antonio Gates has run to perfection for over a decade, making the pair one the most prolific QB-TE TD combos in NFL history.

While it was an impressive play, it wasn't the one that the rookie tight end hung his hat on most after Thursday's sessions.  Instead, he was more pleased with a crucial reception on third down in which he not only moved the chains, but picked up significant yards after the catch.

As Henry explains, he's determined to pay dividends when it counts most, which means becoming a reliable target on third down. It's a philosophy that was instilled in him early during his career at Arkansas.

"Third down is my go-to down," he said.  "My mindset is no one can stop me on that down.  I've got to make a play for my team and come up big. Early on in college, I can remember my offensive coordinator saying you've got to come to play every single down.  But the great players, when it's do or die and you need to get a first down, that's who you call on.  I took pride in that in college, and I plan to do that here in the NFL, too."

Regarded as the top tight end available in this year's draft, Henry has shown why he received so much hype coming out of college thus far in training camp.  Not only has he made those catches on third down and in the red zone, he's made the spectacular catch on more than one occasion.  In addition to boasting reliable hands that did not drop a single pass last year at Arkansas, Henry has proven to be a willing blocker in the run game.

The tight end has had his fair share of opportunities through the start of training camp, seeing extensive action with the first team in various packages. However, with Gates getting a veteran's day off on Thursday, he was able to pick up even more of the load.

"It was good because there were (more reps) when we were in 11 personnel," he explained.  "I can get out there and just try to build that relationship with Philip.  It's about building trust, so the extra reps help a lot." 

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