By (Tyler Waldrep)

The coaching staff expects a lot out of players, the fan base expects even more, but for running back Derrick Henry, it all pales in comparison to what he expects out of himself.

Henry’s high school position coach Pat Dunlap said Henry will not let the success he has had in college slow him down. Henry creates a competitive environment for himself by setting personal goals.

“I know he’s outworking everybody over there,” Dunlap said. “If that meant he ran a 65-yard touchdown against Mississippi State and the DB was three yards behind him on his next touchdown, he wanted the DB to be five yards behind him.”

Even now in the midst of a record-breaking season that has seen Henry score 22 touchdowns in 12 games, it’s difficult to get Henry to talk about himself. He would rather praise his offensive line, the coaching staff or anyone else that has ever had the slightest impact on his career.

Henry is not interested in reliving any of the touchdown runs he makes look so easy. The mistakes are a different story.

Derrick Henry’s fumble against LSU remained with Henry after he rushed for over 200 yards and three scores against LSU.

“If he feels he is at fault for anything, it weighs on him,” Carol Rose, an office worker at Yulee High School, said. “It’s like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. He wants to be there for everyone.”

Many of the young men who have played for the Crimson Tide have bought into coach Nick Saban’s mission for perfection, but not all of them buy in as deeply and as quickly as others.

“By his own admission when he first came here, talked a lot about how his experience as a running back was only carrying the ball and that he had a lot to learn about pass offense, pass protection, being a receiver,” Saban said. “He certainly did a good job of developing and improving in all those areas.”

Getting it done on the field

Soon after coach Bobby Ramsay took the head coaching position at Yulee high school, he began hearing about a middle school running back that could change everything.

Ramsay dismissed it at the time. He had bigger problems at the time. He wouldn’t keep his new job very long if he couldn’t find a single win on the schedule.

“[Then one day I see the] middle school kids that are 5-5, 5-6 and then all the sudden you see this 6-2 monster in the middle of them and I was like ‘Oh okay, that must be Derrick.’ ”

When Ramsay visited with his former star player in the spring, he saw Henry standing with Eddie Jackson and other teammates smiling and making jokes – just like old times. Moments like that it’s easy to remember a game from Henry’s sophomore year in high school.

“We were trying to clinch our first playoff spot and we were down at halftime like 21-3,” Ramsay said. “At halftime Derrick kind of pulled everybody together and had some things to say to the team and in the second half when he went out there–it’s the closest thing I can equate to a basketball game [with] like Lebron James or somebody taking over late.”

Henry volunteered to play defensive end. Ramsay said, “He was like a duck in water on a three-point stance,” he blocked a punt and Ramsay thinks he scored every touchdown in what turned into a 38-35 come-from-behind victory.

Alabama hasn’t trailed often this season with the exception of the Ole Miss game, but when Tennessee took a late lead, it was Henry who found the end zone to put Alabama back on top. After the game the players said they never doubted the offense would get the score it needed. Why would it with talent like Henry’s waiting in the backfield?

“Back-to-back games his junior year we won both of them on two-point conversions at the very end of the game,” Ramsay said. “I never really thought twice about going for it, because I was just like, Derrick will get it.”

Henry always seemed to get exactly what the team needed. Even if the coaches didn’t ask or expect it of him at times.

“Early in his 10th grade year, I tell a story where we were like 3rd-and-40 something,” Ramsay said. “We were planning to punt so [we] just called a simple sprint draw play and Derrick busted out for a 46-yard run and got the first.”

After that game, Ramsay remembered the look on the opposing coaches following the game. It was a look of disbelief.

Remembering what matters

When Henry was in high school, he had plenty of things to work on like patience and developing a stronger lower body, but those weren’t the most important things to Ramsay.

“I always jokingly kind of equate coaching him to being like the guy that touches up the Mona Lisa,” Ramsay said. “You don’t want to do too much to it and give her eyebrows and ruin the painting. You want to make it look nicer, and I think a lot of the stuff with Derrick was just making sure he had all of his intangibles in order.”

Those intangibles Ramsay wanted his player to have included humility, structure and good character. In high school, he had most of those in spades thanks to the woman who raised him, his grandmother, Gladys Henry.

“He adores her, the sun rises and sets in his grandmother,” Rose said.

When Henry broke the high school career rushing record, his grandmother was the one Henry searched for after the game. Of course plenty of other fans wanted to speak to Henry before he could take his uniform off.

“After every home Yulee game … there would be 50 kids in line for his autograph or just wanting to speak to him, and he would stand under the …read more

Source:: The Crimson White Sports