Derrick Henry is trying to be modest.
The Yulee (Fla.) senior running back has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game of his high school career, yet he’s hesitant to concede that he’ll pick up the 102 yards he needs to break a 59-year-old record in Friday’s playoff game against Taylor County (Perry, Fla.).
“You just never know,” said Henry, whose 11,130 career rushing yards rank second on the all-time list to Sugar Land (Texas) running back Ken Hall. “There’s no guarantee.”
After Henry was told that his coach, Bobby Ramsay, said Yulee will be in trouble if Henry doesn’t break the mark by halftime, the Alabama commit gave in.
“Okay, I don’t wanna overlook our opponent,” Henry said. “But yeah, I’ll have that by halftime, if not sooner.”
It’s hard to doubt a guy who needed less than three quarters to rack up 409 yards in last week’s win over Hamilton County (Jasper, Fla.).
“I honestly haven’t even thought about how big it is,” Henry said of potentially breaking the record. “Which is weird to say, because I’ve looked up the history of the record and Mr. Hall. He was ridiculous.”
Hall, who rushed for 11,232 yards in his high school career from 1950-53, was dubbed the Sugar Land Express. He went on to play for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M before stints in the CFL, NFL and AFL. He was inducted into the National Federation of High Schools Hall of Fame in 1983.
“No one was seeing Mr. Hall,” Henry said. “He was just a monster. It’s definitely an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as him. Of course I want the record though.”
Friday’s opponent, Taylor County, has shut down the run over the last four games, allowing just 50 yards a game. Still, Bulldogs coach Ryan Smith said he knows those games “weren’t against a running back of Henry’s caliber.”
“We’re not naïve; look what he averages,” Smith said. “I mean that kid’s a big ol’ Humvee coming right up the middle. He’s just good. No two ways about it.”
Hall, who Sports Illustrated dubbed “the best high school football player ever,” said he has been told countless times that his record would never be broken.
“I’d come back and tell those people that no matter how long it takes, all records will be broken,” he said. “I’m happy for the young man. From everything I’ve read he seems like a great kid, and I’m proud that he’s the one who will get the record. When something’s lasted this long of course there’s some degree of it being a little bittersweet, but I want him to break it and go on and break even more records. Hopefully I’ll be able to shake his hand one day soon.”
Henry said a meeting with Hall “would be a dream come true,” but for now he’s focused on making sure that, when it happens, Hall’s handshake will be congratulatory.
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“To be the all-time rushing leader, it’s just something that hasn’t hit me yet,” Henry said. “It will be an honor. People wait all their lives to do things like this, and it could be something I actually accomplish by the end of this game.”
If not sooner.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.