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A New Heisman Front Runner

Yulee, Florida isn’t the easiest place to find on a map and I’m aware of it only because I lived in Jacksonville, Florida for seven years. In fact, Yulee High School didn’t even exist when I was in Jacksonville, as it opened in 2006. However, in 2013, more and more football fans became aware of the sleepy northeast Florida outpost because of one young man.

Derrick Henry.

From his first game as a freshman, Henry garnered attention locally but the national media eventually caught wind of his Paul Bunyun-esque, eye-popping numbers. As a freshman in high school, he ran for 2,465 yards and 26 touchdowns. He once ran for 510 yards in a single game. He ran for 4,261 yards…in a single season. He ran for 55 touchdowns…also in one season. When all was said and done, Henry ran for 12,124 yards, which broke Sugar Land, TX Ken Hall’s long standing national record, in addition to 153 touchdowns.

Many thought when he signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide that he should change positions. Some recruiting experts and CFB analysts thought he’d make a tremendous tight end in college.

Henry certainly wasn’t one of those.

He wanted to play running back but at 6’3”, 242 lb., he looked more like Jason Witten than he did Adrian Peterson. Regardless, playing running back, he made an impact over his first two years as the complementary back to T.J. Yeldon in Tuscaloosa. He ran for 990 yards as a sophomore, getting more touches with Yeldon hurt for stretches during the season.

But, when Yeldon declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, there were some questions whether Henry could shoulder the load as THE back at Alabama.

Wonder no more.

Henry has starred this season, much like he did when he was a star at Yulee High School. Overshadowed by LSU star RB Leonard Fournette, Henry steadily strung together strong performances throughout the 2015 season.

147 yards on 13 carries v. Wisconsin

236 yards on 32 carries v. Texas A&M

143 yards on 28 carries v. Tennessee

But, in a head-to-head battle v. Fournette last weekend, Henry may finally have gotten the attention that was heaped on the LSU star throughout the season. Henry ran 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns in only nine games. Fournette? He was held to 31 yards on 19 carries.

Henry’s name is now leading most Heisman Trophy projections and he should garner a trip to New York City, at a minimum.

Not bad for a guy many wanted to play tight end in college.


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