They watched Henry drive the Tennessee Titans past the Patriots and Ravens into the AFC championship game. Some of them laughed. Others looked at social media and saw America ask a relevant question.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1,0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0,8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "What would happen if a normal person tried to attack Derrick Henry?“data-reactid =” 17 “>What would happen if a normal person tried to attack Derrick Henry?
And they, the architects and building material vendors and nurses who were once Henry’s high school opponents, found that they had the answers.
“It felt like you were tackling a big four-wheeler,” says Michael Dudzinski, once a 170-pound linebacker at competing West Nassau High School, now an assistant to the golf resort.
“It’s like attacking a wall or a large tree,” said Dalton Bradley, Henry’s former teammate.
“It felt like a freight train or something,” says Cody Cosper, a three-time opponent, now a drilling instructor with the Marines.
About a decade before Henry Earl chased Thomas away and Marcus Peters ran away, these men testified to his size. Highlights that belong on PlayStations. The most productive high school career ever.
But the 12,124 meters and 153 landings in four years tell only half the story. To get the other half, Yahoo Sports spoke to more than a dozen of these normal people who played or trained with or against Henry in northeast Florida. They reported legitimate intimidation and utter absurdity.
“You know, as a coach, I’m not really excited about players, I’m never really impressed,” said James Thomson, then head coach at Gainesville High School. But with Henry?
“I remember saying clearly after the game:” You will win a Heisman. “
A monster since middle school
The legend of Derrick Henry begins even before he entered his first class at Yulee High School. Before that, he ran 2,465 yards and 26 touchdowns as a newcomer in 11 games. Before everyone in little Yulee knew his name.
“Believe it or not, he was probably 6-2, at least £ 215 in middle school,” recalls Nassau County-born Cole Willis. “I think I went underground a couple of times,” he says of his junior high basketball duels with Henry.
The future NFLer also served as a nasal device on soccer fields. He would line up opposite Dudzinski, who was an under-sized center at the time – “barely, not even £ 100”. Henry, about twice the size of Dudzinki, would run past him.
He would do without quarterbacks like Ben Venerdi, who vividly remembers a particular sack. “It was so crazy,” he begins. “It felt like I had 3 meters, but I think I lost 5. And he actually hit me, and then he picked me up and got me back on my feet.
“I’m not that small,” Venerdi continues. “I was a normal high school student – 5-7 or 5-6 and a half. … I’m not small enough to be normal. “
While Willis’ £ 215 estimate may be slightly exaggerated, Henry’s stature was exceptional – and immediately noticeable to Bobby Ramsay when the head coach of Yulee High drove home through the middle school field the first year of a day.
“When I got the chief job in 2008, Derrick was in 7th grade,” recalls Ramsay. And his first Yulee team the following autumn? “I mean we were terrible. We went to 5: 5 by God’s grace, but … I’m just trying to find a way to get 3 meters in one piece.
“And then Derrick comes.”
Attempt (and failure) to attack Derrick Henry
At 15, Henry wasn’t just a flawless physical presence. Wasn’t just 6-3 and 200-plus pounds with 4.5 speed and ease. Wasn’t just humble and driven. He was enrolled in a school that opened in 2006 with a relatively small student population and therefore a 4A classification. He finally brought Yulee into the spotlight. However, this was not a big Florida high school soccer ball. His competitors were rarely interested in Division I. They were ordinary children who scratched under Friday night lights and were completely unprepared for the “all-wheel drive” that was approaching them.
They were mostly 5-9, 5-10. As we warm up, “we just look at the other side,” recalls Cosper, a linebacker at Fernandina Beach High School. You would see Henry, “6-3, 230 pounds, sticking out like an aching thumb. Massive person.”
<p class = "Canvas-Atom Canvas-Text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Then Cosper and his teammates would try to attack Henry Often failed In three games, he added 666 yards and nine touchdowns to 64 carries against Fernandina Beach from the second year onwards, and those were relatively modest numbers. His senior year included single game results of 510 yards and 485. His seasonlow was 189. “data-reactid =” 62 “> Then Cosper and his teammates tried to attack Henry, often failing. In three games, starting in year two, he built 666 yards and nine touchdowns on 64 carry against Fernandina Beach these were relatively modest numbers. His senior year included single game outputs of 510 yards and 485. His seasonallow was 189.
“It was almost like a machine,” says Dalton Delano, a linebacker from West Nassau High School.
Some former Henry opponents struggle to put the experience into words. One of Marty Lee’s former players at First Coast High School told him, “Boy, you had to bring the radio with you. If you didn’t bring the radio against Derrick, he would have got you ready.”
Delano says: “You just step in and you are run over and accept your fate.” Plus bruises. And pain.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "" Usually it doesn't do anything if you attack someone. 'It hurts you,' says Dudzinski. 'Attack him injured, … Everyone was really sore after the game. “” Data-reactid = “66”> “When you attack someone, it usually doesn’t harm you,” says Dudzinski injured, … Everyone was really sore after the game. “
Others say the physical pain that Henry inflicted is nothing unusual. However, it was “demoralizing,” says Venerdi, who played cornerback at Fernandina Beach. Delano adds: “I guess it hurts mentally. We can not do anything. “
The coaches asked the players to meet Henry before the fight. Because, as Lee says, “when he was in the open field, your ass was in trouble.” And because, as Cosper says, “his step was like four of us.” They also taught players to go deep to avoid Henry’s “legendary”, “characteristic” stiff arm. But it was easier said than done.
“Even if you got close, he somehow threw you out of the way,” Willis recalls.
Gunnar Cox, a Yulee defender who would compete with Henry, remembers the stiff arm as “malicious”. And he has an anecdote to prove it. “I started making contacts in my last year,” he says. “And Derrick would actually catch my eye and consistently mess up my contacts. And I had to tell him to stop arming me stiffly in practice because I couldn’t see it. “
Friendly fire and business decisions
Henry didn’t let up, not even against his own team. Although full contact exercises, especially in the season, were rare, teammates experienced versions of what opponents were doing. “It’s not a joke,” said Bradley, a quarterback who did reps in secondary school. “In a sense, it’s literally like dealing with a human being.” It’s just so massive. “
Zane Cruz, a former Yulee linebacker, adds: “It’s like tackling a damn defensive end.”
Coach, Cox says, would instruct players not to do without Henry. “But then he runs at full steam. We had a DB, he said. “I’m not going to attack him, it’s just not even right.” I have to worry about a game this week. “
This was the final aspect of the Derrick Henry Opponent Experience. So many teenagers looked silly. Instead, some stayed away from the embarrassment.
“Some of the corners,” says Dudzinski, “were afraid to tackle it alone.” … you could see the little hesitation – like “Ooooh, don’t jump in”. “
Lee points to one of Henry’s games against First Coast. “He had a run in which he did four or five duels,” he recalls. “When he went to secondary school, I always thought that a DB said to himself: ‘You know what? Maybe I just let him go. “
Fernandina Beach’s head coach, Travis Hodge, adds, “If you have him right on the border or behind the border, [players] would be more aggressive. But the kids knew when he got to the second level, and it was you and he – suddenly they could trip or take one [bad] Angle or absenteeism their angle.
“You would make a decision: I’m going on a date with my girlfriend tomorrow. I don’t want to get hurt.”
“We can not do anything!”
Hodge remembers the second and last time he had to prepare for Henry. He remembers how he made films for hours. In more than a dozen Yulee games, he looked for clues, clues, and anything that could overwhelm his overworked team to slow the freight train. He saw the usual antidotes: put eight in the box. Ignore the quarterback. And so on. It didn’t work much.
Hodge had joked with his assistants to line up with 13 players until the referees noticed, but decided against it. However, he had recognized some trends, including one: Henry often ran left when taking a direct snapshot.
Then he turned a tape from a game against Gainesville High. He saw Henry snap right away. “This linebacker is going to hit him,” says Hodge. “He comes through the hole, he falls the child – and he’s probably 5, 6 feet in the air. He lands and as soon as his foot hits the ground, he moves to another child and then goes 80 meters.”
Hodge stopped the clip. Called his wife. “What should I do?!” He exclaimed.
No, seriously: “Should I take the time that I normally spend preparing a game? Or do I just say, “You know what? I’ll enjoy my wife and children a little bit more.” Because there is nothing we can do! “
Sure enough, when game day arrived, Yulee went to the wildcat. Henry snapped right after. He ran to the left. “We did a little trick and we got it off track,” Hodge recalls. “He goes to the left, we have people there. Then he pulls back and goes to the right. And then misses four people and goes 80 meters.
“And my sports director is behind me. I wonder,” What should I do? “What should I do? ‘ “
“I feel a little better with myself”
Amazed trainers. Demoralized players. That is what Derrick Henry left on his way to Alabama and eventually to the NFL in Nassau County. At half-time, the trainers chewed children for lack of utensils at half-time. The next time they looked at the sugar bowl, they found that Oklahoma couldn’t attack Henry either.
Nowadays everyone has roots for him – primarily because he was a personable boy whose success encourages regional pride. But there is also a sense of satisfaction that some of them experience when Henry violates the greatest defensive spirit in football history and then a week later harasses the best security of the 2010s. When his towering physique and steel-like arms overwhelmed the professionals, as if they had overwhelmed Average Joes a decade ago. At that time, Casey Thiele, the coach from West Nassau, thought: “If we had Division I linebackers or Pro Linebackers, we could definitely stop him.” don’t stop him either. “
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However, keep in mind that the 6: 3 threat of £ 240 that day devastated West-Nassau for 455 yards and 5 TDs. Because Pro Defenses do only marginally better on the biggest stage.
“I can tell you,” says Venerdi, “that I feel a little better when I see how SAM and MIKE’s linebackers miss him in the NFL.”
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<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1,0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0,8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports, Do you have a tip? Question? Comment? Send an email to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnelland further Facebook,“data-reactid =” 119 “>Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports, Do you have a tip? Question? Comment? Send an email to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnelland further Facebook,