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Derrick Lamar Henry Jr. was born in Yulee, Florida, a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida to Stacy Veal and Derrick Henry Sr., aged 15 and 16 respectively. Henry's father was absent for much of his childhood, having been arrested 20 times for various crimes including drug and prostitution-related offenses, and was consequently in and out of prison and had trouble maintaining employment. His mother became a hemodialysis technician. Henry was raised primarily by his grandmother Gladys, who nicknamed him "Shocka", as his birth shocked the whole family, given his parents' young ages. He developed a close relationship to his grandmother, who he cites as very influential in his upbringing.
High school career
Henry attended Yulee High School, where he was a three-sport star in football, basketball, and track. He played as a running back for the Yulee Hornets football team. He ran for 2,465 yards and 26 touchdowns as a freshman in 2009. He was named a first-team All-Coast at running back in 2010 after rushing for 2,788 yards and 38 touchdowns while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. He rushed for 2,610 yards and 34 scores as a junior in 2011 to earn first-team All-Coast honors from the Florida Times-Union. He set the Florida high school record with a 510-yard performance against Jacksonville Jackson and averaged 9.2 yards per carry and 327.8 yards per game as a senior, finishing the season with a state-record 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns. He finished his high school football career with 12,124 career rushing yards, which broke Ken Hall's career record. He also rushed for 153 career touchdowns. His career touchdown totals rank fifth all-time. In four years at Yulee he averaged more than 250 yards a game and never rushed for fewer than 100 yards in a game. He played for the East squad in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he rushed for 53 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
As a track & field athlete, Henry competed as a sprinter at Yulee from 2010 to 2011. He posted a personal-best time of 11.11 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the 2011 FHSAA 2A District 3 Championships, where he placed seventh. He was also a member of the 4×100 and 4×400 squads.
Considered a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, Henry was listed as the No. 1 athlete (player with no designated position) in the nation in 2013. After originally committing to the University of Georgia, Henry committed to the University of Alabama on September 28, 2012. He held offers from many of the top college football programs in the country, including USC, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson. His number was eventually retired by Yulee.
High school statistics
Henry attended and played college football for the University of Alabama from 2013 to 2015. He majored in Communication. He graduated on May 4, 2018. That same day, he published an article in The Players' Tribune thanking his late grandmother for the inspiration to continue pursuing his degree.
As a true freshman in 2013, Henry rushed for 382 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns. On October 19, against Arkansas, he had 111 rushing yards and his first collegiate rushing touchdown in the 52-0 victory. On November 23, against Chattanooga, he had six carries for 66 yards and his second rushing touchdown of the season. During the 2014 Sugar Bowl, he rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and had a 61-yard touchdown reception in the 45-31 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. In that game, Spanish-language broadcaster Pablo Viruega nicknamed him "El Tractorcito" (The Little Tractor) due to his long stride and powerful gait on ESPN Deportes. The nickname became a popular internet meme.
In the 2014 season, Henry shared time in the backfield with T. J. Yeldon. In the season opener against West Virginia, he had 113 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. On September 20, against Florida, he had 111 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. On October 18 against Texas A&M, he had 70 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and a 41-yard receiving touchdown. In the following game against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, he had 78 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. On November 22, against Western Carolina, he had 92 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, and a nine-yard receiving touchdown. In the annual rivalry game against Auburn, he had 72 rushing yards and a touchdown in the high-scoring 55-44 installment of the rivalry. In the SEC Championship against Missouri, he had 141 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the victory. Alabama qualified for the College Football Playoff and faced off against Ohio State in the National Semifinals in the Sugar Bowl. Henry had 95 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and two receptions for 54 yards as Alabama fell 42-35 to the Buckeyes. In his sophomore year, Henry rushed for 990 yards on 172 carries with 11 touchdowns.
2015 season: National Championship and Heisman season
After Yeldon left for the NFL, Henry took over as the starting running back as a junior in 2015. In the season opener against Wisconsin, he had 147 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. In the next game, against Middle Tennessee State, he had 96 rushing yards and another game with three rushing touchdowns. In the next game against Ole Miss, he had 127 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and five receptions for 39 yards in Alabama's only loss of the season. After rushing for 52 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, he had 148 rushing yards and a touchdown in a victory over Georgia. On October 10, he rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas. After the victory over the Razorbacks, he went on an impressive stretch of performances. On October 17, against Texas A&M, he had 236 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, and an 18-yard reception. In the next game, a narrow 19-14 victory over Tennessee, he had 143 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. In the following game, a much-anticipated matchup with fellow Heisman contender Leonard Fournette, he had 210 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against LSU. In the next game, against Mississippi State, he had 204 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. In the next game, against Charleston Southern, he had 68 rushing yards and two more rushing touchdowns in a limited role in the 56-6 victory. In the Iron Bowl against Auburn, he had 271 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on 46 carries. In the SEC Championship against Florida, he had 44 carries for 189 yards and a touchdown. Alabama qualified for the College Football Playoff and faced off against Michigan State in the National Semifinals. In the 38-0 victory over the Spartans in the Cotton Bowl, he had 75 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. During Alabama's 45-40 victory over Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, he rushed for 158 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns. During the game, he also broke Shaun Alexander's record for most career rushing yards in Alabama history. Playing in all 15 games, he rushed for SEC records 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries. In addition, he scored at least one touchdown in each game. Henry won the Heisman Trophy, beating out finalists Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. He won numerous other awards including the Doak Walker Award, Walter Camp Award, and Maxwell Award. He declared for the 2016 NFL Draft after his junior season.
Coming out of Alabama, Henry was projected by the majority of analysts to be either drafted in the late first or second round. Scouts regarded his main assets to be his large frame, violent running, ability to break tackles with ease, speed, long strides, superior conditioning, and consistent play. The main concerns were about the wear and tear his body took as a workhorse at Alabama, his slow acceleration, average foot quickness, below-average catching ability, narrow based running style, sluggish cutbacks, and running tall.
On May 9, 2016, the Tennessee Titans signed Henry to a four-year, $5.40 million contract with $3.30 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $2.13 million.
Henry began his rookie season as the backup running back to veteran DeMarco Murray. He wore the No. 2 jersey throughout training camp and preseason and donned the No. 22 once running back Dexter McCluster was cut on September 2, 2016.
Henry made his NFL debut and earned his first NFL start in the Titans' season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He finished the game with five carries for three yards and two receptions for 41 yards. During Week 8, Henry scored his first NFL touchdown on a 6-yard rush in a 36-22 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished the game with 16 carries for a then career-high 60 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown and four catches for 37 yards. On December 18, 2016, he had nine rushing attempts for 58 rushing yards and a season-high two rushing touchdowns in a 19-17 road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. During the season finale against the Houston Texans, he ran for a then-career-high 65 rushing yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown in the 24-17 victory.
Henry finished his rookie season with 110 carries for 490 yards (both 6th among NFL rookies in 2016) and five touchdowns in 15 games and two starts. He also caught 13 passes for 137 yards.
Henry split carries with DeMarco Murray and run-oriented quarterback Marcus Mariota. During Week 2, Henry ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in a 37-16 road victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On October 16, 2017, on Monday Night Football, Henry ran for a career-best 131 yards on 19 carries, including a 72-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the 36-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. In addition, he had a reception for 14 receiving yards in the victory. During Week 13, Henry ran for 109 yards on 11 carries and beat his longest rush of the year with a 75-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the 24-13 victory over the Houston Texans. In the regular season finale against the Jaguars, Henry caught his first receiving touchdown on a 66-yard reception from Marcus Mariota in the 15-10 victory.
The Titans finished second in the AFC South with a 9-7 record and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. In the Wild Card Round, the Titans played the Kansas City Chiefs. Because DeMarco Murray was out with a knee injury, Henry got the start. In a 22-21 road victory, Henry had the best performance of his career up to that point, rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and catching two passes for 35 yards. His 191 yards-from-scrimmage was a franchise record. In the Divisional Round against the New England Patriots, Henry had 28 rushing yards and 21 receiving yards in the 35-14 road loss.
Henry finished the regular season with 176 carries for 744 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 15 games and two starts. He also caught 11 passes for 136 receiving yards and a touchdown. In the postseason, Henry ran for 184 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries and caught five passes for 56 yards.
Henry in 2018
Henry split carries with offseason acquisition Dion Lewis and run-oriented quarterback Marcus Mariota for most of the 2018 season. During Week 2, Henry recorded an eight-yard pass completion, the first of his career, to wide receiver Taywan Taylor in the Titans' 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans. He also had 18 carries in that game and the next against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was used much less frequently through the middle of the season.
From Weeks 4-13, Henry averaged nine carries for only 37 yards per game, and never rushed for over 60 yards. This all changed in Week 14 against the Jaguars. In the second quarter, Henry had a 99-yard touchdown run, fending off three tacklers, tying him with Tony Dorsett for the longest NFL touchdown run. He finished the game with four rushing touchdowns and 238 rushing yards on 17 carries, breaking Chris Johnson's franchise record of 228 yards in 2009. He also became the ninth player in NFL history to record a 200+ yard and 4+ touchdown game, and the first to do so on fewer than 22 carries. His 238 rushing yards were the most by any player for a single game for the 2018 season. Henry was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week due to his spectacular performance. During Week 15, the Titans went on the road to face the New York Giants. In a cold and rainy game, Henry led the NFL in rushing for the second consecutive week with 170 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 33 carries, along with a one-yard reception and six-yard pass completion in the 17-0 shutout. In Weeks 16 and 17, he combined for 177 rushing yards and a touchdown in the two games against the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts. He was later named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December.
Henry finished the 2018 season with 1,059 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, and 15 receptions. After the season, he was ranked 99th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2019.
2019 season: Rushing yards leader
Henry in 2019
Henry after throwing a touchdown pass in the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens
In the season opener against the Cleveland Browns, Henry rushed 19 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. He also caught one pass for a 75-yard touchdown as the Titans won on the road 43-13. During Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts, he rushed 15 times for 81 yards and a touchdown as the Titans narrowly lost 19-17. Two weeks later against the Atlanta Falcons, Henry had his first 100-yard game of the season when he rushed for 100 yards on 27 carries in a 24-10 road victory. In the next game against the Buffalo Bills, he rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown as the Titans lost by a score of 14-7. After a season-low 28 yards in a Week 6 shutout loss to Denver, Henry sank to 12th in the league in rushing, over 200 yards behind the league leaders he would eventually catch. Henry responded with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 23-20 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 7. During Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, Henry rushed 13 times for 63 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in the 30-20 road loss. In the next game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he finished with 188 rushing yards and two touchdowns as the Titans narrowly won 35-32. Henry won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week for his efforts. During a Jaguars rematch in Week 12 after a Week 11 bye, Henry had a 74-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Overall, he finished the 42-20 victory with 159 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with one reception for 16 yards. In the next game, a rematch against the Colts, he rushed 26 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in the 31-17 road victory. During Week 14 against the Oakland Raiders, Henry rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-21 road victory. During the season finale against the Houston Texans in Week 17, Henry finished with 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Titans won 35-14 and made it to the playoffs as a Wild card team. During the game, Henry narrowly won the 2019 rushing title over Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns, with the winning rush being a 53-yard touchdown run. This was Henry's first career rushing crown and the first Titan to win it since Chris Johnson in 2009.
Henry finished the regular season setting career-highs in carries with 303, rushing yards with 1,540, and rushing touchdowns with 16, which all led the league, despite only playing in 15 games, missing the Week 16 game against the New Orleans Saints due to a hamstring injury. He also set career-highs in receptions with 16, receiving yards with 206, and receiving touchdowns with two. On December 17, 2019, he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. On January 3, 2020, he was named to the second-team All-Pro at both the running back and flex position, both behind Christian McCaffrey.
With the Titans finishing the season 9-7, the team narrowly clinched a wild card spot for the #6 seed. In the AFC Wild Card game against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, which was played on his 26th birthday, Henry rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the first half, finishing with 182 yards (the most ever against a Bill Belichick-led team, and the third most ever in a postseason road game) and a 22-yard reception in the 20-13 victory. Henry became the first rushing champion with a 100-yard playoff game since Terrell Davis in 1998, the first to win a playoff game since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007, and the second Titan with multiple post-season 100+ rushing games. He also broke his own franchise record for most yards-from-scrimmage with 204. During the AFC Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens, Henry rushed 30 times for 195 yards and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Davis in the 28-12 win. He became the second player in NFL history with three postseason games with at least 150 rushing yards, joining Terrell Davis, who had four. In addition, he became the only player with at least 175 rushing yards in consecutive games. Davis is the only other with two such games in a career.
In the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Henry was mostly held in check. During the game, he rushed 19 times for 69 yards and a touchdown in the 35-24 loss.
On March 16, 2020, the Titans placed the franchise tag on Henry. He signed the tag on April 2, 2020. Henry signed a new four-year $50 million contract with the team on July 15, 2020.
During Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos in Week 1, Henry finished with 31 carries for 116 rushing yards as the Titans won 16-14. During Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, Henry finished with 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns as the Titans won 31-30.
In Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday Night Football, Henry recorded 63 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns during the 42-16 win. During the game, Henry threw a stiff arm at corner back Josh Norman which quickly went viral.
During Week 6 against the Houston Texans, Henry finished with 212 rushing yards, 52 receiving yards, and two touchdowns (including a 94 yard rushing touchdown). In overtime, he finished the game with a five-yard touchdown to end the game as the Titans won 42-36.
In 2018, Henry fulfilled a promise to his grandmother Gladys and graduated from Alabama in May 2018 with a bachelor's degree in communications. He has a portrait tattoo of her on his chest. He also has a dog named Nino.
In November 2019, Henry's hometown of Yulee, Florida celebrated him with a welcome sign in his honor. Fundraising for the sign came from local residents and businesses who wanted to recognize the accomplishments of the rising football star.