Rice football hasn’t seen a defensive back as dominant as Bruce Henley was with the Owls in the 1970s. His interception record likely won’t ever be broken.
Bruce Henley will forever be remembered as one of the most dominant defensive backs to ever play football at Rice University. A two-sport star, Henley was also a starting pitcher for the Owls baseball team during his time at South Main. It’s what he accomplished on the football field that he’s most well-known for to this day.
Over the span of three seasons, Henley never missed a game. He started 33 consecutive times with the varsity squad where he tallied 15 interceptions, a record which still stands to this day. And that’s not the full story.
Henley’s career spanned from 1971 to 1974. Following his freshman season in 1971, the NCAA modified their rules, ending the limitations on freshman-specific teams a year following Henley’s freshman season. His four interceptions as a freshman are not included in the official records, making his true career total 19 interceptions over four seasons. Had those four been included he’d have ended his career as the SWC leader in career interceptions.
A handful of four-year players have come close to the official number, most recently Dan Dawson who picked off 13 passes from 1998 to 2001. Huey Keeney, whose career ended in 1948 with 13 interceptions, held the record prior to Henley’s emergence. Henley remains one of just six Owls to reach double-digit interceptions in his career. As it stands, Henley’s 15 picks are tied for 12th in SWC history.
Takeaways were not a strong-suit of the Owls’ defense in 2017, putting further into perspective just how dominant Henley was in his time. The Owls three total interceptions were fewer than Henley averaged per season by himself in his time at Rice.