CHAMPAIGN — Bret Bielema looked to his past in selecting his first Illinois defensive backs coach.
Aaron Henry on Tuesday evening was named to the position. Henry played defensive back under Bielema at Wisconsin between 2007 and 2011 before serving on Bielema's 2014 and 2015 Arkansas staffs as a defensive graduate assistant.
"I first saw Aaron Henry on the practice field as a high school sophomore, offered him a scholarship and eventually he became an All-Big Ten player for us,” Bielema said in a statement. “He has now grown in the coaching profession, coaching at several Power 5 as well as other Big Ten schools. It’s a tremendous opportunity to bring Aaron to the University of Illinois and allow him to continue to develop young men."
Henry also has worked on coaching staffs at Rutgers, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt, most recently overseeing the Commodores' cornerbacks during the 2020 season.
"I am beyond excited to be reunited with Coach Bielema at the University of Illinois,” Henry said in a statement. “I played and coached for Coach B, and it truly feels like he is putting together a family. ... Even though I’m not originally from Illinois, it genuinely feels like I’m coming home. I’m elated to be back in the Big Ten."
Henry's playing career at Wisconsin included 32 starts, 181 tackles and seven interceptions. As a senior in 2011, he earned All-Big Ten first-team status.
Among the Florida native's coaching accomplishments are guiding a Rutgers defensive backs unit that helped the 2016 Scarlet Knights' defense rank 18th in the nation.
Henry is Bielema's fourth coaching hire in a three-day span. Tight ends coach Ben Miller and defensive line coach Terrance Jamison were named to Bielema's staff on Sunday, and linebackers coach Andy Buh followed on Monday. Bielema has just two openings remaining on his 10-person staff.