Pace University To Retire DJ Henry’s Number


Henry’s family honors him at his memorial service. #12 was his football number and now will be retired from use in his honor.

JJ Perdido

As social injustice grows more prominent in our world today, Pace University plans to retire DJ Henry’s number to honor the 10th anniversary of his death.

Andy Rondeau, head coach for the Pace University football team, was not aware of Henry’s tragic death when he began coaching for the Setters in 2014. Through his time at Pace, however, he has come to learn about why his story is so precious to his team, even a decade later.

“Timing, in so many ways, is everything. Social justice is at our doorstep is so many ways in the past six months, that it became evident that [retiring Henry’s number] would be something to consider,” Rondeau explained.

Rondeau also mentioned current players who are prominent in making sure remembering Henry and his story do not go unrecognized. He noted that “we began talking about it in the summertime. Maybe going back to May or June when we really still thought there would be a chance to have a season, and within that, honor DJ.”

Honoring Henry’s legacy, story and number is not a one-time deal, however. For the football team especially, it is imperative to honor Henry at all times. Rondeau mentioned his only concern about this: how?

“There’s a lot of discussions about it, in what ways to do it. There’s a lot,” he stated. The head coach’s current preference is to wear a helmet sticker in Henry’s honor. This is the best idea, in Rondeau’s opinion, over a jersey patch since the players wear their helmets every day for protection and only their jerseys on game days.

Rondeau, naming numerous ideas from memory, did not stop here. “We had even had discussions about if we would create an honorarium with the jersey and say, ‘hey would that go to a particular student with a particularly high standard in different areas?’” he included.

Deciding to honor Henry in this manner would be difficult, however. A singular student with an uncommon, consistent dedication to social justice. This is the type of student who would be worthy to bring change, and worthy to represent what the number “12” means to Pace University.

The consensus came easily that at the very least, retiring his number would be the best way to honor Henry on a day-to-day basis. Rondeau also mentioned that the university may be thinking to frame a game jersey in locations on both the Pleasantville campus, as well as the New York City campus.

Rondeau wishes that the number “12” in Henry’s memory could be posted somewhere on campus so that the Pace community can always see and understand its meaning.

He also explained how the clock tower outside of the Goldstein Athletic Center is paralleled with Henry’s name and story. He wishes the same for his number to be paralleled with his name and story.

Rondeau wishes to “take a grassroots approach and take that opportunity at least on an annual basis to talk to the whole team about Henry’s story. He stated that last year, the team took the time to watch the documentary on Henry’s story on CBS.

Education on this matter is something that can be crucial, especially to new players coming in. “I’ve got guys that are coming in at 18-years-old who were eight when this happened, so they might not know that this happened.” He continued, stating we can “take an opportunity for education and associate it with something so very close with all of the guys that have a very similar path to DJ, that they’re students at Pace, that they play football, regardless of their race, religion, beliefs, they’re just like him in so many ways, especially our black student-athletes.”

As Social Justice Week begins, the university plans to center its focuses on the 10th anniversary of Henry’s death.

On Thursday, there will be an event in Henry’s honor on the football field. Rondeau noted that one of his players, Eli Simmons Jr., has been very proactive in organizing this event amid numerous restrictions in place to abide by social distancing.

As the head coach of the football team, Rondeau simply wants students and student-athletes to come together, unite, and become involved in fighting social injustice.

The first step is to educate students and student-athletes on this and honor Henry’s legacy in the proper manner of retiring the number 12.