Tackling new opportunities
Football standout helps KSU make history
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 14, 2018) — Taylor Henkle was as surprised as anyone last year when media outlets across the country began interviewing him for stories about Kennesaw State football.
The national attention started with a picture taken of Henkle following his interception that sealed the Owls’ 16-14 victory at Montana State. Henkle was photographed holding Plank, a block of wood with eyes and a smile drawn on, which had become a trophy awarded to KSU defensive players who cause a turnover during a game. The photo went viral and turned Plank into a media sensation, generating more awareness of Kennesaw State football.
“From that day on, every single week we were talking about Plank,” Henkle said. “After the game, I saw the picture posted all over social media and I got a lot of text messages and phone calls about it, and I just watched it grow and grow. It was awesome. Plank just added more fun to the historic season that we were in the middle of.”
Henkle was one of the first student-athletes to sign on when Kennesaw State began its football team, and he continued to contribute to many firsts for the young program. He was a starting safety for three years, culminating with the memorable 2017 season in which the Owls notched 12 wins – an NCAA record for a team in only its third year – and earned the football program’s first conference championship and first playoff victories.
“It’s an honor, simply put,” Henkle said of being part of school history. “It’s awesome when you think about all the moments you create when a bunch of guys come in together and start something like this. We’re going to look back and see really how special that season was and truly be appreciative of the opportunity that we had.”
Henkle had the chance to shoot for one more special season this fall. Since KSU fielded a football team for only the final three of Henkle’s four years on campus, he still had another year of eligibility to play for the Owls.
However, Henkle decided it was time to move on to new opportunities. He received his sport management degree last week and has been hired as a marketing manager for High Adventure Company, an Acworth-based hunting and fishing management and travel agency.
“I’ll miss playing football because I’ve done it for so long, but there comes a time when you have to start thinking down the road,” Henkle said. “Kennesaw State has prepared me, football has prepared me, and I’m ready for this next step in my life. I’m very excited.
All in on KSU
When Henkle visited Kennesaw State prior to his senior year of high school, the football program was two years away from playing its inaugural game. Not all of the coaching staff had been hired, and the team’s uniforms hadn’t been unveiled. Henkle met with head coach Brian Bohannon at the nearby Fifth Third Bank branch because the University didn’t yet have football offices.
Along with Kennesaw State having no football history, Henkle knew that his first year on the team would consist entirely of practices and no games. However, he was sold on the plan Bohannon had for building a successful football program.
“I saw the vision Coach Bohannon had, and I thought it was a great opportunity to do something that a lot of people don’t get to do, and that’s start a football program from scratch,” Henkle said. “The plan that he put out in front of me caught my attention, and I bought into it, and it paid off.”
Henkle became a team leader right from the start. As a result of the dedication and leadership that he demonstrated in fall camp, Henkle was selected as a team captain for the Owls’ first game, on Sept. 3, 2015 at East Tennessee State. He recorded the first tackle in Kennesaw State football history on the game’s opening play, one of seven tackles he had in the Owls’ 56-16 win.
“That ETSU game, being the first college football game of my career and the first game ever for Kennesaw State, those two moments of walking onto the field as a captain and then making the first tackle will forever stick with me,” Henkle said.
With his playing days now behind him, Henkle plans to attend many Owls games as a fan. He is confident that the accomplishments of the 2017 season are just the beginning for KSU football.
“Last season was awesome, and I expect Kennesaw State for years on to be just as successful,” Henkle said. “The standard has been set, and this just will continue to grow.”
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.