Derrick Henry’s most excellent week
Alabama junior tailback Derrick Henry is picking up honors by the day:
SATURDAY — Named MVP of the SEC title game after rushing for 189 yards in a 29-15 win over Florida.
SUNDAY — Voted by teammates as Alabama’s MVP at a banquet in Birmingham.
MONDAY — Named one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
TUESDAY — Named first-team All-SEC by league coaches and first-team All-America by USA Today.
WEDNESDAY — Voted by SEC coaches as the MVP of the league.
TODAY — Will be in Atlanta tonight as a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award.
FRIDAY — Headed to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, which takes place Saturday night.
As he was powering his way to a Southeastern Conference single-season rushing record the past few weeks, Alabama tailback Derrick Henry stuck to the same message.
The credit belonged to God. The credit belonged to Crimson Tide coaches. The credit belonged to teammates.
Henry hasn't changed that way of thinking, but he is now willing to discuss his impending trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior from Yulee, Fla., is among the three finalists for college football's top individual honor, joining Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
"I just never wanted to focus on that," Henry said this week in a news conference. "I knew that if I prepared and practiced with my teammates that everything would take care of itself. I had to stay mentally locked in, because the SEC is a tough league."
The Heisman ceremony will be held Saturday night in New York City, but Henry is staying busy before Friday's departure. He will be at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta tonight as a finalist for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award.
Henry set the SEC's new single-season standard in last Saturday's 29-15 win over Florida at the league championship inside the Georgia Dome. He rushed 44 times for 189 yards and a touchdown against the Gators, increasing his season tally to 1,986 yards entering the Crimson Tide's national semifinal pairing with Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this guy," Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the SEC title game. "He's had a phenomenal season, and he deserves every accolade that anyone could ever throw his way."
Henry was named Wednesday by SEC coaches as the league's offensive player of the year, with Crimson Tide inside linebacker Reggie Ragland capturing the defensive honor. Tennessee's Evan Berry was named special teams player of the year, with Texas A&M's Christian Kirk getting tabbed freshman of the year and Florida's Jim McElwain the coach of the year.
Alabama is the first school to sweep the offensive and defensive player honors since the league began the awards in 2003. Crimson Tide senior center Ryan Kelly was named SEC scholar-athlete of the year and shared the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league's top blocker with Sebastian Tretola of Arkansas.
Henry bolstered his Heisman chances by averaging a robust 200.1 rushing yards in the seven Crimson Tide games this season that were televised by CBS. His season average of 152.8 yards per game is eclipsed by a 161.3-yard average against the three top-10 defenses he faced — Wisconsin (No. 3), Florida (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 8).
Considered the Heisman favorite among the worthy trio, Henry has coveted the famous trophy for quite a while.
"It's a dream of mine," he said. "I've been playing football since I was five years old, and every time (the Electronic Arts) NCAA (video game) would come out, I was always the first one who wanted to get it. My main goal in the game was to win the Heisman."
Henry will be accompanied to the Heisman ceremony by his parents and two of his Yulee High School coaches. His 339 carries for 1,986 yards (5.9 per carry) this season pale to what he did as a Yulee senior, when he rushed 462 times for 4,261 yards (9.2 per carry) and became Parade magazine's national player of the year.
Yulee is 25 miles from Jacksonville and has roughly 12,000 residents, a majority of whom will be tuning in Saturday night to watch their hometown hero amid a city of 8.5 million people.
"I come from a small town, and not many kids get the opportunity that I'm having," Henry said. "They've all been very supportive back home. I'm just going to take this all in and enjoy every moment."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.