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Sunday, April 27, 2003
Updated: February 10, 7:03 PM ET
 
Texans draft former Michigan QB
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Despite the adamancy of Drew Henson that he will continue a foundering baseball career and doesn't plan to pursue football as an option, the Houston Texans on Sunday gambled that he just might change his mind, and selected the former Michigan quarterback in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

"I mean, why not, given where we were?" said Houston general manager Charley Casserly. "You never know what might happen. We own his rights now for a year and our attitude was, 'Hey, let's see what happens,' and we felt it was well worth making the move."

Indeed, there is very little risk involved for the Texans, who will tender to Henson the rookie minimum qualifying offer of $225,000 to retain his rights up until the 2004 draft. Nor did the Texans invest much in terms of draft pick compensation, since they used just the 192nd choice to select Henson, and with a supplemental pick, no less.

Drew Henson
Drew Henson left the Blue of Michigan for the green of Major League Baseball.
But choosing Henson and convincing him to abandon his baseball career in the New York Yankees system are two dramatically different things. Only a week ago, both Henson and his representatives at IMG told ESPN.com that the onetime Wolverines starter had no designs on the NFL, and preferred that teams did not use a draft choice this weekend to acquire his rights.

And on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the Texans exercised the sixth-round pick on Henson, who is currently playing third base for the Yankees' triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, Tom Condon reiterated his client's stance.

"He's a baseball player," Condon said. "Period. End of story."

Said Henson, 23, last week: "I guess that, until I'm playing third base in Yankees Stadium and in the lineup every day, this is always going to be an issue. But the truth is, football just isn't in my plans, and the questions are starting to get a little old. I'm not a quitter. I'm following through with baseball. This is what I want to be doing. This is my focus."

As of Saturday, Henson was hitting just .167 with an on-base percentage of .257 through 20 games. He had just 11 hits in 66 at-bats, with three doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. Henson had struck out 19 times. In his 128 games at Columbus last season, he hit just .240, with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs, and struck out 151 times in 471 plate appearances.

There have been rumors that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner might be ready to abandon the Henson experiment, but that would be a pretty costly proposition. The club signed Henson to a six-year, $17 million contract in 2001 and there are four years remaining on that deal.

ESPN.com has learned Henson is scheduled to make salaries of $2 million (in 2003), $2.2 million (2004), $3.8 million (2005) and $6 million (2006). Almost as significant as those amounts is the fact they are all guaranteed. And the first addendum clause in Henson's contract precludes him from playing football while still the Yankees' property.

When they signed him, New York officials mentally targeted 2003 as the year they felt he would take over the Yankees' third base job, but clearly that has not been the case. No one in the organization is going to project now when Henson might advance full-time to the major league level.

This was the first year in which Henson, whose college resume included 24 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions, was automatically eligible for the NFL draft. Prior to this draft, he would have had to petition for an early entry exemption, and never chose to do so.

If he does not sign a Texans deal, Henson would go back into the 2004 draft. In 2005, he would no longer be subject to draft rules and could sign with the team of his choice. It is similar to what Dallas quarterback Chad Hutchinson experienced after a four-year fling as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals system.

Hutchinson signed with the Cowboys for last season and received a $3.1 million signing bonus.

Had he completed his college career, he certainly would have been a first-round choice, maybe top 10 or even top five. Look, things change, and people change their minds every day. We just figured that we had nothing to lose on this.
Texans GM Charley Casserly

Most scouts surveyed in the past weeks assess that Henson is a better prospect than Hutchinson. They add that it is difficult to evaluate him since he has spent the two-plus years away from the gridiron. But officials from two teams, neither of them the Texans, conceded to ESPN.com last week they had had internal discussions about choosing Henson with a late-round choice in this draft.

Fitting a contract into a team's rookie pool, though, is a tricky maneuver, acknowledged Ken Kremer, another of Henson's agents. And that is why the odds seemed to have shifted against Henson being chosen this year.

"He's got three years left on his (Yankees) contract after this season," said Kremer, "and essentially, that is guaranteed money. So a team that drafted him would have to make it worth his while financially to walk away from that. With the constraints of the rookie pool, that would be tough to do.

"But the more important thing is that he really wants to make it work in baseball. His goal is to be the Yankees' third baseman and that's always uppermost in his mind."

Houston already has David Carr, the first overall choice in the '02 draft, as its starter. The Texans also selected Dave Ragone of Louisville in the third round on Saturday evening. The club also has a pair of journeyman veterans in Tony Banks and Mike Quinn on its current roster.

But given the lack of risk involved with Sunday's gambit, Casserly clearly felt that taking Henson was at least worth the effort.

"Had he completed his college career, he certainly would have been a first-round choice, maybe top 10 or even top five," Casserly said. "Look, things change, and people change their minds every day. We just figured that we had nothing to lose on this."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.