Derrick Henry's short list of favorite running backs is pretty long.
The humble Tennessee Titans star, who led the league in rushing last season but usually has little to say about himself in interviews, was asked this week about his all-time favorites. He quickly rattled off 15 names that span the decades — from Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, to Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson.
"When I was a kid, I didn't really have much to do, so I always watched NFL Network when they had those old NFL Films come up, the 1980s' great backs," Henry said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. "I would always watch clips when they showed games or they played or showed highlights of the old-school dudes leading up to now. I was in awe any time I could watch any of those guys I named."
Henry mentioned backs with varying and contrasting styles such as the elusive Barry Sanders and the powerful Earl Campbell. He studied all of them.
"I didn't really try to emulate (any specific running back)," Henry said. "I love the position. I love watching guys be great."
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry is a tough, punishing runner known for tossing guys aside with a strong stiff-arm. He led the NFL in rushing yards (1,540), touchdown runs (16) and carries (303) last year, helping the Titans reach the AFC title game this past January. He again leads the league in all three categories with 663 yards and seven touchdowns on 143 carries as the Titans (5-1), coming off a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and set to face the Cincinnati Bengals in another nondivision game, lead the AFC South standings.
Henry doesn't mind inflicting pain on opponents.
"At this position, you have to be physical because you get hit so much," he said. "You definitely want to deliver a blow to a defender before they deliver the blow to you. You want to get on a defender, get physical, go north and south."
Henry embarrassed Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman in a win on Oct. 13, tossing him a couple of yards with a vicious right-arm shove for a video clip that quickly went viral.
"That was probably one of the meanest stiff-arms I've ever seen, no doubt," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
Knocking guys down hasn't stopped Henry from big gains, either. He stiff-armed three Jacksonville defenders on a 99-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars in December 2018. He burst up the middle and sped away from the entire defense on a 94-yard touchdown run against the Houston Texans two weeks ago.
"The great thing about him is that as he continues to run downhill and he makes moves, he is always moving forward, so it makes it hard for people to tackle him," Titans left guard Rodger Saffold said. "Once he gets into the open field, good luck."
Henry has a league-high eight touchdown runs of at least 50 yards since entering the NFL in 2016, including three such runs last season and one this year. His teammates get more excited seeing the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Alabama stiff-arming defenders than the long runs, though.
"The stiff-arm, for sure," wide receiver Corey Davis said. "Derrick, he can do it all, and I think guys often forget about his speed. I'll say his stiff-arm, particularly (against) Buffalo, that was my favorite one. It had me fired up."
The popularity of Henry's stiff-arms earned him an endorsement with Old Spice. His 45-second commercial debuts next month and features him using the move on several defenders and carrying two tacklers into the end zone, outside the stadium and into a street across a busy intersection, through a playground, an airport runway and finishing up on a treadmill.
"I've been watching the commercials since I was a kid and used Old Spice because of those commercials," Henry said. "I love football and love the superstars that they used in those commercials. So this is like a dream come true. It's definitely a surreal experience."
Henry had to wait for an opportunity after the Titans drafted him in the second round in 2016. He played behind veteran DeMarco Murray his first two seasons before getting the featured role in 2018.
"It's all God's timing," said Henry, who wears a cross in eye black on his cheek under his helmet. "If you're a competitor, you want to play right away, have an impact right away. But that wasn't the situation for me.
"There were a lot of guys who played in the league for a long time at a high level and college coaches I called for advice. Just been patient, waiting until the opportunity came and took advantage."