How did Yulee (Fla.) running back Derrick Henry celebrate after breaking one of the most coveted records in high school football?
He went to sleep.
Well, not immediately. After the final whistle he posed for pictures and talked to his teammates and coaches. Then he talked to the press, went home, did some tweeting, and did some more interviews for good measure. He then ate some food and watched a little SportsCenter — but it wasn’t long before Henry was fast asleep. He’d earned it.
Yulee coach Bobby Ramsay joked Saturday that he was “gonna be arrested here for child endangerment” after giving the ball to his big fullback 58 times against Taylor County (Perry, Fla.) in the Class 4A regional semifinals on Friday night. It’s hard to think of Henry as a child, even in jest. The proverbial “man among boys,” he stands over 6-3 and weighs 240 pounds.
Now he also stands alone as perhaps the greatest running back in high school history.
Henry ran for 482 yards and six touchdowns on Friday night as Yulee won 41-26 to advance to the regional finals. In the process, he shattered Ken Hall's 59-year-old national career rushing yardage record, an outcome which was pretty much a foregone conclusion entering the game considering Henry only needed 102 yards to make the mark and had been averaging around 350 per game.
Henry set the record on a 52-yard touchdown run. There were some fireworks and an announcement over the loudspeaker afterwards, but this was a playoff game — the fanfare could wait. By Saturday, Henry already seemed over it, instead looking ahead to next week's game against East Gadsden (Fla.).
"We played them last year, we know that they’re gonna be fast," said Henry. "They’re a really good team, they’re athletic. We know what to expect."
Gadsden crushed its regional semifinal opponent 47-7 on Friday, and even if Yulee can get past the Jaguars next week, the path to Henry's ultimate goal — a state championship — won't be easy. The other remaining seven teams in Class 4A include Bolles (Jacksonville), which seems to win a championship every other year under Corky Rogers, the winningest coach in state history; Booker T. Washington (Miami), which has reestablished itself as a South Florida powerhouse now that former USA Today National Coach of the Year Tim Harris Sr. is back on the sidelines after a stint at the University of Miami; and Cocoa, which prior to last year had won three consecutive state championships.
With that on the horizon, you'll forgive Henry for not waxing poetic about his accomplishment. As he usually does, he deflected praise to his community and the people around him.
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"It’s something special, but I know I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and my teammates," he said. "I’m just glad to share it with my teammates, my school and my hometown."
Ramsay, too, had trouble reflecting on the feat — and Henry's career in general — with the most important game in program history less than a week away.
"Where do you start, really?" Ramsay said. "I think he’s impacted the community, I think he’s impacted the school.
"We’re going full speed right now, we’re in the playoffs. I think it’s something that you don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone."
Henry now has a ridiculous 3,752 yards and 50 touchdowns as a senior and 11,613 yards and 143 TDs in his illustrious career. By the end of Friday's game he was already well ahead of the previous mark of 11,232 set by Hall of Sugar Land (Texas) in the 1950's. Hall spoke to Henry in a radio interview Thursday, and the elder legend's advice to his young, Alabama-bound counterpart — hard work, education, humility — struck a chord.
"It was a special moment for me," Henry said Saturday, "something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life."
Those in attendance Friday are probably thinking the same thing.