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Inbox: It puts life into perspective

Former Packers TE Mitchell Henry
Former Packers TE Mitchell Henry

Joe from Parkland County, Alberta

Wes, what a phenomenal piece on Mitchell Henry and his family. It is truly inspiring, considering Mitchell was only five months younger than me. It is stories like this that help motivate me to know that I/anyone can be a difference-maker in this world and we need to take advantage of it. Thank you, and hopefully you can rest easy now that this piece has finally come to fruition.

I was tossing and turning the last two nights, but I can confidently say I slept a little easier Monday night. Good morning!

Bob from Racine, WI

Wes: Great, great story on Mitchell Henry and his wife Madison. A tear jerker. You have a wonderful gift in writing. Keep it up and may this story be a terrific encouragement to Madison Mitchell. God bless.

I appreciate everyone who read the story, watched the video and extended compliments over the past 24 hours. Yes, that was the story I’ve been working day and night on, and I’m glad it was so well-received.

Joe from Venice, FL

Wes, I cannot tell you how moving the piece was that you put together on Mitchell Henry. I honestly wept reading parts of your article as it hit home to me and touched my heart immensely. Thank you for sharing this young man's story with us and a special thank you for the phenomenal job that you did with it. This article without question is one of the best that I have ever read on the Packers’ site. Mike was right, outstanding work!

If you don’t mind, I want to use this opportunity to extend a few thank yous. First, to the Henry family for opening their doors to Mike Vandersnick and me in late April. They could not have possibly been better hosts. I need to give sincere thanks to Mike Atkinson, Adam Hoebelheinrich and Snick for going above and beyond in producing the video for the story. Snick was a trooper in Kentucky. We had to sleep in our rental car the night we went catfishing and probably only slept eight hours total during the last two days. I kept Snick moving from one interview to the next and he never complained. His shots were breathtaking and beautiful. I also want to thank Duke Bobber for greenlighting this story and building graphics. He and Ryan Hartwig also kept me sane through the ups and downs of writing the story. Lexi Kinnard was a saint for helping me transcribe like 10-12 hours’ worth of interviews (I’d still be transcribing if she didn’t lend a hand) and Spoff was a champion for taking a few extra days of Inbox off my hands to allow me time to finish the story. Lastly, I need to thank my wife, Cait. I promised her for months I’d go to the Children’s Hospital family day at the Milwaukee Zoo on June 1. However, there was so much work I needed to do on the story that I stayed back. Cait knows my mind would have been elsewhere, though, so she allowed me to stay back and that weekend I achieved a great breakthrough with the story. I can’t thank her enough for her selflessness.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Wes, a story like that has to be life-changing. Can you even begin to put that in perspective yet? BTW, great job.

I know this story made me a better person and more appreciative of every day I wake up. I told that to Mitchell’s wife, Madison, Monday afternoon after the story ran. It makes you hug your family a little tighter. Mitchell Henry was truly a cut above. After getting to know his family, I can now see why.

Keith from Andover, MN

Wow, Wes. Thank you for sharing your account and Catfish's story through the lenses of those who loved him best. We are so fortunate to have people like you at packers.com. What a powerful piece. You should be extremely proud, even as I'm sure you're humbled by the whole experience. Again, wow!

His story puts life into perspective and makes you thankful for your health and the health of your family. Stories like this make you realize we’re only here for a very short time in the grand scheme of things. It’s so easy to get bogged down by that which truly does not matter. It’s a reminder if I don’t seize today, then I’m doing Mitchell’s memory a disservice. You have to maximize your time and enjoy today.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Finished reading Wes's master project. I'm speechless and my heart is rent. The strength and character of Mitchell is incredible. He and Madison are excellent role models. What a fantastic and humbling opportunity for you, Wes. Fantastic job, honoring this young man. I found myself tearing up just reading it. How much more in writing it.

I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was the hardest story I’ve ever written in my 13 years as a professional writer. These stories challenge a writer’s ability because there is so much information and it’s critical to be respectful to how it’s presented. I could not possibly fathom what the Henry family went through during Mitchell’s seven-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia. A huge amount of credit goes to Terry Henry and Madison. I was texting both of them nonstop over the past two weeks to make sure I got every detail right down to the flavor of Mitchell and Madison’s wedding cake.

Florian from Kronach, Germany

Hi Wes! Great piece of work on Mitchell Henry, a player who definitely had way too little time to spend on this planet. When doing the research in Kentucky, the interviews with the family and coaches and all the editing in the end, have you always been able to stay emotionally neutral and calm in a professional way, or did you get somewhat emotional and maybe even showed your feelings to the ones around you? I am sure I would have cried in the one or another moment...

In the moment, I was cool and collected. I had a job to do in Kentucky and the only way to do it correctly was to stay even-keeled as to not manipulate the emotions of those I was interviewing. Once I got home, it was a different story. As a new father, it was heartbreaking to see what Terry and Lesley went through. I had a lot of long nights of reflection. No parent should ever have to bury a child. To see their strength and resolve was inspiring, though.

Matt from Houston, TX

Wow, what a story about Mitchell Henry! I read the article on lunch at work then watched the video when I got home; both are incredible pieces that do such a good job telling the story of Mitchell and the Henry family. I thought the article had be hard to write, but how hard was it to sit with the family and video those interviews and fishing trips? I'm sure there were plenty of Kleenex boxes in the bin after. Thanks for sharing such an incredible story about that young man's life.

It was easy in some regard because they’re such a welcoming family. The hardest part was when Terry, Lesley and Ben drove Mike and me to the cemetery where Mitchell was buried. That was emotional, but beautiful at the same time. Madison designed his headstone, complete with the antlers at the top.

John from Madison, WI

Aw Jeez, Wes, that was amazing. And it all happened because his dad saw your comment about Mitchell Henry and invited you fishing, after he hadn't gone since his son died? Unbelievable. Congratulations on a magnificent story. If you don't write another word in your life, you can still be proud of this.

I’ve known Ben for years, but I hadn’t talked to him much since Mitchell passed away two years ago. What’s truly remarkable is this story came to fruition because of Inbox. Mitchell’s mom saw my response to Ed from Minneapolis’ question last June and his dad wrote in a month later to ask me if I’d like to come down. Incredible.

Suzanne from Elgin, TX

Wes....the Mitchell Henry story was simply a great read of how love and faith endures against all odds.

The love Mitchell and Madison shared is something special. I think it speaks volumes about Mitchell’s character he never said “why?” throughout his illness. No matter the obstacles, Mitchell never walked back from what he believed. You can’t buy that type of integrity.

Steve from Middletown, KY

Wes, the story was worth the wait. I went to WKU and the University of Louisville, so I follow the players in and after college. I was really excited for him to be a Packer. I fish Taylorsville Lake and hunt within five miles of it. The lake is known for catfish and plenty of crappie. I wish our paths had crossed. Anyway, if you get the chance, I'd like to hear more about your trip to Kentucky. What did it mean to the family, but more importantly, what did it mean to you to be able to share his story? Thanks.

I don’t want to speak for the family, but it seemed like everyone enjoyed the story. Kentucky was fun. I’d only driven through it, never stopped, prior to this trip. Taylorsville is gorgeous. It’s so peaceful out there. As I wrote in the story, I get why Mitchell fell in love with it.

Drew from Colorado Springs, CO

Wes, great work on the Mitchell Henry piece! A touching reminder of the person behind the player. We need more examples of how humanity shapes football, sports, and society in general. A quick question: Is there any moment of Mitchell's time with the Packers that particularly stands out to you?

Character is who you are when no one is looking. I thought it was powerful a member of the Packers’ equipment staff reached out Monday morning with a text that read: “By far one of the kindest UDFAs to pass through the green mile.”

Lynn from Luck, WI

Mitchell Henry and Bart Starr seem to have shared a similar strength of character. Thanks for the excellent piece of writing and for reintroducing us to that fine young man.

That was my primary motivation for writing the story. There are so many players who come in and out of the Packers’ locker room each year I feel we sometimes forget there are human beings behind those facemasks. Henry was more than just a tight end, he was a high-quality person. It’s impossible to find anyone with a bad thing to say about him.

Tim from St Louis, MO

Wes, at this time I cannot finish your article on Mitchell Henry. As someone who wants to marry his girlfriend who is currently battling cancer, I couldn't stop crying when I read about Mitchell and Madison, it really hit home. Great job, I hope to finish reading it soon!

Hopefully, you’ll be able to finish once she’s cancer-free. All the best.

Kurt from Rialto, CA

For Wes, not a question but a note of thanks for your project. The video and the article on Mitchell moved me emotionally. My wife and I are dealing with her terminal cancer and it is inspiring to hear about how Mitchell and his family dealt with his illness. Thanks for your work on this project. I respect you as a writer and a man. God bless.

My thoughts and prayers are with you both, Kurt. Thanks for taking the time to check out the story.

Ken from Boynton Beach, FL

I read the Packers will wear No.15 on their helmets this year to honor Bart Starr. Will it replace the “G” on the helmet or will it be located on the back of the helmet?

I haven’t seen the prototype yet, but I’m guessing the No. 15 will be on the back of the helmet. The “G” isn’t going anywhere.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

"Who will be the breakout player this year for the Packers" questions are numerous. Quite frankly, I would hate for it to be JK Scott, because if you are punting all the time you are not scoring. The right question is what player having a breakout year would mean the Packers are succeeding? Aaron Jones on offense and Kevin King on defense might be the right answers. If those two players "break out" we are probably having a good year. Who would you name?

There are a lot of great candidates for potential breakout players, but I believe King is the catalyst to this whole thing. If King stays healthy, the Packers’ secondary has the potential to be one of the best in the entire league. The ceiling for Jaire Alexander, King, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage is that high.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

Wes, you made the comment that everyone would like to see the Packers play in London while AR is still playing. Sorry but this fan would be happy if the Packers never play overseas. Mainly because I just do not like teams playing overseas because the season is hard enough on them and they should not have to deal with traveling overseas to play.

I think playing in China could have disrupted a season, but London not so much – especially since most of those trips are partnered with a bye week. If the NFL is truly about expanding the reach of the game, it’s time the Packers play overseas.

Dennis from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

This will probably show my ignorance, but I was wondering, with a couple of speedsters like Trevor Davis and MVS, could they take turns racing down field as fast as they can against the same corner over and over, thus wearing him out? Might that open up a big play, or cause a substitution with a lesser talent taking the starter's place? Kind of like body shots in boxing. Probably too many variables to work, but it seemed like an interesting idea.

It’s a little more complex than just running go routes over and over, but there is something to be said for a constant threat of 4.3-4.4 speed challenging the third level of the defense. You even saw it a little last year with MVS.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

How much time does it take you to do the II each day, on average? Do you do all, most, some or none of your own research for answers like when do the Packers travel to the Raiders next or historical stats? I know, two questions but they are related.

Three or four hours, depending on how busy I am. Spoff and I do our own research, occasionally bouncing questions off each other. We don’t have the budget for a stats and info department.

Michael from Savage, MN

Hey Mike, it made me wonder when you stated that the Raiders are going to host the Packers in 2023. The public typically does not know the schedule for the next season until a schedule comes out on who the opponents are away or home and then the actual schedule after that. Do you guys have access to a schedule for additional years then?

We know the rotations, though. The Packers play each of the AFC divisions once every four years, alternating home and away games. Green Bay last played Oakland in 2015, meaning it’ll host the Raiders this year at Lambeau Field and then travel to face them again in 2023.

Thomas from Mesa, AZ

I see all the concern about an 18-game schedule. Hasn't anyone figured out yet it's a bargaining chip? The league only pulls it out when the players want something else. So the league gives up the 18 so it looks like a concession. And I'm not even a lawyer.

It could be. Moves and countermoves, right?

John from Milwaukee, WI

I am always interested in stories of free-agent signings who come from a large city to a small city and all-football Green Bay...Are there any reactions from players who fall in love with the city or area from this year or recent years?

As I mentioned over the weekend, Za’Darius Smith has made himself at home in Green Bay. Green Bay is a bit of a whirlwind at first because it’s so small in comparison to other NFL stops, but it has plenty of restaurants and day trips that are hidden gems. The relatively cheap cost of living doesn’t hurt, either.

Wanderlei from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hello Wes! Greetings from the lovely Copacabana Beach in Rio. Would love for you to visit sometime. Anyway, just wanted to get your thoughts on UFC 238. Awesome card! I couldn't believe the ref wasn't wearing an earpiece. Did you get a chance to watch? Thanks for answering! P.S. Great job on the Mitchell Henry story.

Oh, you bet I did. It was the highlight of my weekend, which also included a trip to the Brewers game Sunday. UFC 238 also marked my first time at the United Center. The card was phenomenal and Cowboy-Ferguson lived up to the hype. I’m just glad Jessica Eye is OK. That was a scary KO.

Jim from Seattle, WA

What a lovely article about Mitchell Henry and his family. Certainly, it is a story that yearns to be told, and the emotion was palpable. As a writer, what sort of responsibility did you feel towards Mitchell, his family, and his wife Madison, to thoughtfully capture a life well-lived?

A huge one…and hopefully I did. Make it a great Tuesday, everyone.

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