Not sure if Derrick Henry is a huge history buff, but watching him knock opponents head’s off with his stiff arm seems like a clear shoutout to King Henry VIII. Most kings are the center of their own vast universe, much like King Henry VIII was, but this concept can also be seen on a much smaller scale.
The objective of a chess game is simple, surround the opponent’s king piece without giving him anywhere safe to move. There’s an infinite amount of ways to try and get this outcome, but the result is always the same. The most vital piece, the king, has to be “unable to avoid capture”. Without the king piece, there is there’s no real purpose to the game at all. The game would just be moving pieces around for the sake of moving pieces around.
When given the starting role Henry is the sole driving force behind his team’s offensive gameplan and the focal point of every opposing team’s defensive strategy. His freakish athleticism, his size, paired with his ability to handle consistently high volume, has built quite the legend. The reign of a king can span decades, but for that to happen it first has to begin. While King Henry VIII was named king at around seventeen years old, Derick Henry’s rule started a little earlier, as freshman in high school.
Looking at these numbers it’s hard to believe there aren’t any typos. At the end of his four years, Henry set the national high school record for career rushing yards with 12,124 yards. As a freshman, he was already the focal point of Yulee High School’s offense. He finished his freshman season with 313 carries in eleven games, meaning he carried the ball almost thirty times a game. As one of the youngest players on the team, he was already the best player on the field. He was already the king piece, he was already the center of the game’s universe. Henry’s dominance in this freshman season was truly the beginning of his divine rule.
He was equally as dominant in his sophomore year and junior seasons. Once again carrying the ball nearly thirty times a game. Cementing his legacy as one of the best high school running backs of all time was already a guarantee heading into his senior year. What happened next truly elevated the legend of Derrick Henry to new heights. He carried the ball 462 times for 4261 yards, to go along with 55 rushing touchdowns.
As a senior Henry was getting the ball over thirty-five times a game, and despite previous years of heavy volume, he was still able to put up these otherworldly statistics. The legend was just beginning. The king had his initial coming-out party, proving that he is the most important chess piece in any given game, and he was ready for the next stage.
King Henry of The Crimson Tide
After four years of high volume in high school, paired with unprecedented success, Nick Saban knew he needed Derrick Henry on his team. Saban saw that he could carry a heavy workload, and that he somehow seemed to improve with every touch. His freshman year he didn’t see much time, sitting behind T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Despite having limited action, Henry was still a walking first down every time he touched the ball. He may not have been the focal point of the entire game, but you can bet opposing team’s had him in their scouting report.
The following year he experienced more carries, despite having to split time with T.J. Yeldon. The reign of the king had experienced a minor stand still in these first two years, but the 2014-2015 season made his subjects remember his greatness. In the final game of the season, the 2014 Sugar Bowl vs Ohio State, Henry had a tremendous game. He had 13 carries, 95 rushing yards, and two touchdowns. While not his strong suit, he still had two catches for 52 yards.
The following season would prove to be eerily similar to Henry’s high school senior season. Analysts expected him to perform, but he went and blew expectations out of the water again, in true Derrick Henry fashion. While he was always accustom to high volume, he hadn’t yet experienced the opportunity to be the true starting running back for Alabama yet. Saban employed the same strategy when using Henry as the Yulee High School coaches; give him the ball as much as possible. He went on to have the fifth most rushing attempts in a single season (395), the sixth most rushing yards in a single season (2,219), and the ninth most rushing touchdowns in a single season (28). Defenses lay destroyed in the wake of Henry, as the Alabama Crimson Tide hoisted another national championship at the end of the season.
The Titan Among Us
Derrick Henry began his NFL career similar to his college career, splitting reps, this time with Demarco Murray. Murray was heavily involved in the Titan’s offense for Derrick Henry’s first two years in the league. By the 2018-2019 season, Henry was given the opportunity to be the featured back, and as his past shows us, he would make the most of it, and more. He notched his first one thousand yard season and his first double-digit rushing touchdown season. He once again established himself as the king of the board, the player at the forefront of both team’s game plans.
The 2019-2020 season gave us Henry’s best professional season up to date. He had 1540 rushing yards on 303 carries and 16 rushing touchdowns. If you ask any player on the Tennessee Titans who the most important player was for their unexpected playoff run, they would all say Derrick Henry. They rode this guy all the way to an unlikely AFC Championship appearance. Ryan Tannehill barely through the ball during this run, but he had no reason to. Derrick Henry was unstoppable, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Rated as the tenth best player in the league by his peers, Henry is easily one of the best players in the entire NFL.
King Henry XXIII
To this point in Henry’s career, he has shown the ability to assert himself as the most important player in the game. When he didn’t have the starting job, or he was splitting reps, he still was producing. Henry is truly an anomaly when it comes to the running back position, but it’s more than just his 6′-4″ 247-pound defensive end frame. General managers and coaches worry about “tread on the tires” when it comes to selecting a running back. This makes sense, it’s an extremely physically demanding position that gets beaten up on every play.
Henry has had the ball in his hands his whole life, but this wear and tear somehow doesn’t effect him. His success grows with each carry, with each game, with each year. From high school, college, and now the NFL, he has dominated at every level. When given the starting job he is the true definition of a game changer. He is “The Royal Chess Piece” from “Divine Beginnings. “King Henry of the Crimson Tide”, is now a”The Titan Among Us”. The Legend of King Henry XXII is truly something to marvel at, and lucky for us it isn’t close to being over.
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