It won't be easy for June Henley to come up with an encore for last season. But in one area, at least, Henley is not looking for a topper.
Henley, a Kansas University sophomore tailback and the Big Eight's top returning rusher, promises his brushes with the law are a thing of the past.
"I made a mistake last year," Henley said. "I've put that behind me. It wore me down. I'm just glad to get it over with."
Henley's legal dealings came to an end in May, when he pleaded no contest to a petit larceny charge after he reportedly shoplifted a leather jacket and a pair of basketball shoes from the 1/2 Price Store here. He was found guilty, ordered to pay $215 in fines and court costs and was sentenced to 180 days in the Douglas County Jail. The jail term was suspended on the conditions that Henley pay the fine and court costs and not violate the law for one year.
No problem, Henley said.
"Being the top running back in the league and doing that ... yeah, it was embarrassing," Henley said. "I was pretty mad at myself about that."
Six days after the alleged incident, Henley started against Missouri. As soon as he rushed for the 1,127th yard of his season -- a school and Big Eight freshman record -- he was pulled.
The record-setting effort landed him on the All-Big Eight team and earned him Offensive Freshman of the Year honors.
KU coach Glen Mason drew some flak for playing Henley against MU, but Mason -- and Henley -- shrugged it off.
"Everybody has their opinion," Henley said. "I only have one coach, and he made the decision he felt was right."
Mason and Henley settled the punishment in-house. Henley wouldn't discuss details, but said it involved running and an apology to the team.
"I did that, I paid my price," Henley said. "I'm ready to get on with my season."
Henley hasn't thought much about his encore. He hasn't established any concrete goals.
"As a freshman, I didn't think I'd play as much as I did," he said. "I just went out and played the best I could, and what came, came. I got some breaks and took advantage of them."
His breaks were tears and pulls. Henley started only when George White and L.T. Levine went down with injuries.
Now that they're back -- along with spring drills standout Mark Sanders, who was hampered most of last season by a variety of injuries -- Henley is fighting for his job.
"They're all a little different," Mason said. "We do a drill for the secondary where we swing the back out and throw him the ball and let a defensive back try to make an open-field tackle. You throw L.T. Levine out there, throw him the ball, and sometimes they get a bit of him, sometimes they don't.
"You throw Mark Sanders out there, you get the feeling the defensive back feels like he's going to get the hell knocked out of him. With Henley, they don't even touch him. If they touch him, they jump up and down, high-fivin' each other. He can move, cut. I never saw him do that in high school. We must have coached him up once he got here, because he's good at it."
As good as he may be, even the Big Eight's leading returning rusher isn't guaranteed a starting spot. He and Sanders share the top line on the preseason depth chart.
"There are no guarantees," Henley said. "I'll go out and prove myself. You just don't expect to have a position."