History was made in New York City this past weekend for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Junior running back Derrick Henry became the second player in the school’s history to win college football’s highest individual award. APR’s MacKenzie Bates files this report on Henry, whose name may always be followed by the words Heisman Trophy winner…
Growing up in a small town in Northeastern Florida, Derrick Henry shattered state records playing high school football. When he wasn’t shredding defenses on the gridiron, he played the NCAA Football Video Game.” All the while, he dreamed of accepting the Heisman Trophy…
So much for dreaming. But fans and his team mates say Henry earned it. He collected 378 first place votes, beating his closest competitor Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey came in third.
“I haven’t really thought that far yet right now," Henry says. "I’m the Heisman Trophy winner. God is good. I can’t wait to celebrate with my teammates and coaches. It’s a team effort. The 2015 Alabama team helped me do this. I’m just happy and I can’t wait.”
By most accounts, Henry was considered the favorite heading in to the ceremony. He broke fellow Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker's Southeastern Conference record by running just shy of two thousand yards and matching an SEC mark with twenty three touchdowns. Watson accounted for 41 total touchdowns for the undefeated Tigers. McCaffrey had almost 3,500 all-purpose yards, which broke a record held by the great Barry Sanders.
Even if Las Vegas odds makers believed Henry could win the Heisman, he didn’t see it that way.
“I was kind of worried," Henry says. "Christian, breaking Barry Sanders' record, doing all the things he does, he's just unbelievable.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban sat in the audience in New York City as Henry spent ten minutes thanking everyone from god to his family, team mates and coaches. Even Saban, known for his stony demeanor, couldn’t seem to hide his feelings…
“These guys are like family to us," Saban says. "And it’s the feeling that any parent would get when their children do something that’s really, really special. This is about as special as it gets so this is as good as a feeling as you ever get as a coach.”
Henry becomes the second player in Alabama Football history to win the Heisman Trophy. Mark Ingram won the first back in 2009. And Henry’s victory comes after winning a rare trifecta at the ESPN-Home Depot College Football awards. He took awards including the Maxwell for best player, the Campbell award for player of the year. That puts Derrick Henry on a list that includes Roger Staubach. Henry also won the Doak Walker Award for Best Running Back. Now that his name is etched on all that hardware… does this make Henry the greatest running back in Crimson Tide History?
“The Answer is Yes. Absolutely.”
That’s ESPN’s Paul Finebaum. He’s spent countless years covering Alabama and works for the SEC Network.
“Mark Ingram was a surprise Heisman winner but if you talk about great running backs, I know this sounds funny to say you’re forced to list him in there although I think naturally there’s been a long list," Finebaum says. "But when you look at Derrick Henry, he’s had one of the most dominating seasons in college football that we have ever seen.”
Henry’s 2015 season puts him above the rest. In nine SEC games this year, he averaged 180 yards per game in leading the Tide to its second straight SEC Championship and 25th in school history. Henry recorded nine 100-yard games this season, tying the Alabama record held by Ingram and Trent Richardson.
“It’d mean a lot to me just to bring Bama their second Heisman," Henry says. " I love this place and it’s the reason why I came here.”
And Henry knows exactly where he’s putting the hardware.
“Bring it back to Alabama and let it join Mark Ingram's (Trophy)," Henry says. " I look at it all of the time but now I have something to look at with my name on it. I’m so glad to bring Alabama its second Heisman Trophy.”
Now that the Heisman Trophy has Henry’s name on it. He turns his attention to a much bigger prize. The College Football Playoff Championship. Alabama takes on Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on New Year’s Eve.
“This has been great but at the same time too, we’ve got a game left to play and a tough opponent in Michigan State," Henry says. " I can’t wait to get back. We practice on (December) 16th and can’t wait to be back with my teammates be with them again and get ready and get prepared.”
For APR News, I’m MacKenzie Bates in Tuscaloosa.