MORGANTOWN — All of the approximately 124 West Virginia football players on the trip to the Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic are academically eligible.

Coach Rich Rodriguez made sure of that on Tuesday before the squad resumed preparations in Atlanta for next Monday night’s clash with Georgia.

But Jay Henry stands out clearly as No. 1 in the classroom. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior linebacker from Tulsa, Okla., has a perfect 4.0 grade-point average majoring in finance.

Since enrolling at WVU in 2002, he hasn’t settled for anything less than an “A” in any of his classes. That’s why he has earned Academic All-America first-team status.

Make no mistake, Henry also excels on the football field. He ranks fourth among the team’s leading tacklers with 58 in just 10 games.

The middle linebacker sprained a knee after making a team-high six tackles in the 31-19 victory at Maryland and had to sit out the East Carolina game.

Of his tackles this season, five and a half were for lost yardage and two were sacks. He also forced three fumbles and recovered one.

“No one ever had to push me (in academics),” Henry said. “I knew I had to get my work done and just went about doing it.”

As you might expect, teammates needle him good-naturedly about being a straight-A student. “Yeah, they give me a hard time about it,” he said. “But it’s all in fun.

“I just kinda take it and laugh it off. I guess maybe they’re just jealous.”

But Henry admits that he’d rather go to football practice than take a final exam, although that’s something he’s got to do.

“I also would rather play in a game than practice,” he added.

Henry not only is pleased with his own production this year but also that of fellow linebackers as WVU posted a 10-1 record, won the Big East championship and earned No. 11 national ranking.

“People outside the program didn’t think we’d be good (linebackers),” he recalled. “But those inside the program knew we’d do all right.

“We’ve got guys that can make plays.”

Henry admittedly feels good about the Mountaineers’ chances against No. 8 Georgia. “I think we’ll play well,” he said.

The Bulldogs remain a seven-point favorite. The game will be televised by ABC, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

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