On Sunday, August 24, one of the University of Missouri’s all-time football greats, John “The Jet” Henley, (Wide Receiver – 1969-72) and former Bomber (Winger, 1972) passed away at his home in San Bernardino, California. He had been battling liver cancer for 2 years. Jet had a stellar gridiron career at Mizzou including the school record for most receptions, All-Big 8 and All American Honors. . He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1972, but did not sign, opting for a successful law career.
Little did the MU Athletic Department know, that during his playing career at Mizzou, Jet was burning up the rugby pitch (under an alias of “David Mojack” ) as a winger for the Missouri Tiger Rugby Team during the off-season. Football players were forbidden to play rugby. It was there that Henley was recruited along with Jim “LC” Dierker (Bombers 1971-80) by Sterling Hayden, Mizzou Rugby Player/Coach, to play for the St. Louis Bombers.
Both Henley and Dierker were “guest” players on the famous or infamous Bomber tour to Charlottesville, Virginia to play in the classic Commonwealth Cup Tournament. This elite tourney featured the top teams in the U.S., United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. With 9.3 hundred yard sprinter speed and able to hit like a line-backer, Henley complemented the Bomber Black team of incredible size and toughness, who welcomed both of the Mizzou recruits. The Bombers did not win the tournament, but left a huge impression on the Eastern Rugby Union on and off the field.
It was on that wild East Coast tour, that tall tales were spun about “stair diving, chandelier eating, keg stealing, and the “Flight for Life”. One such story was about Henley and Dierker “dining and dashing” from a McDonald’s with 100 hamburgers and fries for a “free” team dinner. Or when the tour bus was pulled over in Indiana, where a Bomber (Jet/Dierker suspects to this day), was accused of throwing a full beer can out the window, and hitting a “Hoosier” in a pickup. The Highway Patrol ended up arresting the bus driver, leaving the team and bus stranded on the roadside.
Jet Henley, to his dying day, was always proud of his St. Louis Bomber pedigree, whether wearing his black game jersey or T-shirt, or traveling to San Diego in 2006 to see the Bomber Super League Game against OMBAC.
In one of his last conversations with Dierker, just a few weeks before his death, Jet, recalled the Bombers saying, “ Hey, how are Kyle and the Bombers doing? Next time I get back to St. Louis, let’s swing by Thurmer’s for a cold 9-0-5. I love those guys.” God bless John “The Jet” Henley. They don’t make them like that any more. A Bomber for life and beyond!