YULEE, Fla. —
Overload right, 24 blast. That was the play call for Derrick Henry
to secure a first down for Yulee (Fla.)
High School early in the second quarter Friday night.
Turned out, it was the call and the play that secured history.
For 59 years, hundreds of thousands of prep running backs from every corner of the country have tried to run down Sugarland, Texas legend Ken Hall and finally after the 1,257th carry of his high school career, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior manchild they call "Shocka" passed him.
In vintage Henry form, the Alabama recruit broke past two perfectly-positioned would be tacklers, stiff-armed another and sprinted the final 40 yards untouched completing a 52-yard touchdown run with 11 minutes, 16 seconds left in the second quarter that broke the national career rushing yardage record during a 41-26 Florida 4A first-round playoff win Friday night.
At 7:46 p.m., on a cool and breezy 50-degree night on the Northern tip of Florida, just outside of Jacksonville, 11 miles south of the Georgia border, 839 miles east of Sugarland, and once a stratosphere from reality, a new rushing king was crowned. Hall's magical landmark total of 11,232 yards set from 1950 to 1953 went poof.
When asked what went through his mind when he crossed the goal line, Henry, a thoughtful, humble sort, took a big giant sigh.
"It's over," said Henry after the game while surrounded by reporters, fans, friends and family. "I was happy to get it and to get a little rest. But I knew I had to get out there and help my teammates win a game."
Indeed, Henry was just getting started. That was just his 13th carry of the game.
By the end of the night, the tireless freight train of a running back — think Eric Dickerson or Christian Okoye or Brandon Jacobs — had scribes and record-keepers on their toes and typing fingers again as he approached his own state-record single-game record of 502 yards.
With 482 yards he fell 20 yards shy but he did carry a state-record 58 carries to go along with all six of his team's touchdowns. He needed all those carries because Taylor County responded to every one of Henry's touchdown jaunts of 52, 10, 25, 9, 45 and 39 yards.
Henry, however, was just more determined and talented. He's also a good soldier and leader. He listened intently to Yulee coach Bobby Ramsay after Henry's record-breaking quarter
came over to him and congratulated him, but then told him he has a lot
more work to do ... I couldn't be prouder of anyone though. He
definitely earned it."
As hard as he worked, Henry made like "Roadrunner" in the Looney Tunes cartoon and went "beep-beep," leaving Hall's numbers in the dust.
The new bench mark career numbers for others to chase are these: 1,302 carries, 11,613 yards and 148 touchdowns. With upwards of three more playoff games, he'll likely
surpass the 12,000 mark.
His season totals are approaching national-record material as well: 377 carries, 3,752 yards and 50 touchdowns.
to the NFHS record book, the most rushing yards in a season is 4,756
set by John Giannantonio of Netcong, N.J. (he did it in eight games!).
The Florida record - done in 14 games - was done by Travis Henry (no
relation), who went for 4,087 for Frostproof in 1996.
Henry averages 341 rushing yards per game, so the national single-season
mark is on the radar. The Hornets would have to get to the state-title
game, which is Henry's next and only goal. He's accomplished everything else, so why not? In 45 prep games, he's rushed for at least 100 yards, another national record.
"Three more wins — that's all I really want," he said.
And that's precisely what should be Henry's goal, said the previous record-holder Hall, reached by telephone after his record was shattered.
"I've talked about it (being broken) for a month or better and expected it," Hall told MaxPreps senior writer Dave Krider, a longtime friend. "With that size and ability (that Henry has). It's kind of exciting. It was exciting to hold it for 59 years and fun to be there.
"I told Derrick on the phone the other day that there are some rules with holding the record. You didn't do it alone. There are 10 guys helping. Look up the word humility. Don't bring it (the record) up. Let others bring it up first and then talk about it. Have a lot of respect."
Henry is all about that.
He spoke with Hall on the phone Thursday and said it was a moment he'll always cherish. Not the record, but speaking with Hall.
"That's something I'll cherish for a long time," Henry said. "It was just a special moment hearing about his high school
career and what the record meant to him. He talked about all the
memorable players who helped him along the way. Talking to the
'Sugarland Express' was very, very special to me."
So too, of course, was the record. The game wasn't stopped - FHSAA rules forbid it because it was a playoff game — and Henry simply flipped the ball to the referee. With camera crews on his shoulder, Henry jogged to the bench, slapped hands and hugged teammates, caught his breath, then stood and waved to the Yulee fans.
"It means a lot, it really does," said Henry. "I feel privileged and blessed and thankful. I'm just glad to be a part of history. I think Ken Hall is in a league of his own. I'm just happy my name could be placed up with his."
Of his state-record 58 carries, Henry wasn't exactly complaining about the workload: "The ball isn't that heavy. Whatever I can do to help my team win I'm good with."
And of the record-breaking play? "Overload right 24 blast," he said with a giant smile. "They couldn't stop it. Our fullback, the line, all opened up the line. Just like they've done all season, all four years. I'm lucky. I'm blessed. I'm so thankful."
Henry said on Thursday that he wanted to set the record in front of his hometown fans, ones who have helped raise him.
"It's going to be an honor beyond speech," he said on Thursday. "I've wanted to do it here because people have been so good to me my entire life here ... Every time I go out on Friday night I feel like I'm protecting (Yulee). I try to represent it the right way. This has always felt like home. I just feel like Yulee is a part of me."
He's been described regularly as a man among boys with 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash and the ability to bench press 360 pounds.
""That's the best athlete I've ever seen," Taylor County coach Ryan Smith told Steve Berrey after the game. "He's unbelievable."
Ramsay knew that 45 games ago. He's glad the record is out of the way and felt great pressure to win Friday. "If he breaks the record and we don't win, it sours the moment," he said. "This was just like it was supposed to be, though we certainly didn't want to use him that much. But that's a good team and we had to keep their offense off the field."
He told Krider last week that he and Henry never talked about Hall's record over the years.
"It's not like it was on a countdown board in our room," Ramsay said. "It probably will be like most things — you don't appreciate it until a few years later. I hope it will be a great source of pride for the community. He is an ambassador for the community."
And now the king of high school running backs.