ATLANTA– Derrick Henry had heard of Earl Campbell. He knew he played running back for the Texas Longhorns back in the day, but hadn’t seen him play until he flipped on the NFL Network one night.
“I watched him in the NFL when he played for the (Houston) Oilers and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ Earl Campbell is a different breed,” Henry said.
Ever since that night, Henry will periodically spend his downtime watching YouTube videos of the 1977 Heisman winner, marveled by the way the back dominated on the gridiron.
People now watch Henry’s performances in the same light.
Audiences were amazed when he ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns against LSU, they were amazed when he amassed a combined 90 carries for 460 yards in a seven-day stretch and media members were left with blank stares this week when Henry explained that he squatted 500 pounds the following Tuesday after collecting 40-plus carries in a single contest.
Like Campbell, Henry now has a chance to win college football’s most prestigious award. After taking home the Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards Thursday night in Atlanta, Henry will have his shot at the Heisman Trophy Saturday night in New York City.
“All my heroes are in that Heisman brotherhood man,” Henry said. “It’s like a dream come true to be in that situation and be a finalist.”
Henry hasn’t thought of what he will say in his speech should he win the award. He’s been too busy taking in awards ceremonies and mentally preparing for Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. He knows that God will have a prominent role in his looming Heisman speech, but that’s it.
His humble nature gave all the credit to his coaches and teammates for his success this season. After perusing his stat line of 1,986 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, it’s hard to believe that the monstrous back didn’t play some sort of part in that.
But don’t say that to Henry. The ongoing theme of Henry’s media availability was, “I credit to them (coaches) and all my teammates.”
The nation will likely hear a similar spiel Saturday night should Henry take home the trophy, but all his hard work was not put in for a piece of hardware — well, sort of.
Henry wants a trophy, but his eyes aren’t set on one involving a stiff-arm.
“I want a national title,” he said.