At the end of October, everyone following college football was ready to save time and present the Heisman Trophy to LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Then Fournette ran into the Alabama defense. Coincidentally, Alabama tailback Derrick Henry picked up his game, keying a win over second-ranked LSU with one of his four 200-yard rushing performances against Southeastern Conference defenses.
On Saturday, Derrick Henry will be one of three finalists in New York for the presentation of the 2015 Heisman Trophy, presented to the nation’s best college football player.
Henry has done nothing to diminish his candidacy, as he has been the catalyst for Alabama’s run to the Southeastern Conference championship, won by Bama over Florida, 29-15 last Saturday, and into the College Football Playoff as the No. 2 seed.
Alabama will meet Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff on Dec. 31.
Indeed, if Henry has any negative it is what seems to be growing Alabama fatigue as the rest of the nation sees another very successful season and possible national championship for the Crimson Tide. After an early season loss, Bama has rebounded to an 11-1 season, and Henry has been regarded as the leader for the Heisman for several weeks.
To be sure, Henry has worthy competition for the award. He will be joined in New York Saturday for the presentation at the Best Buy Theater by Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Clemson running back Christian McCaffrey. The event will be broadcast by ESPN at 7 p.m. CST.
"It is a very special honor for me to be selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy," Henry said following the announcement Monday evening. "First, I want to thank God for blessing me with his opportunity. The Heisman Trophy has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and the chance to go to New York as a finalist is amazing, but none of this would be possible without my coaches and teammates. The offensive line, the quarterback, wide receivers, and tight ends have done an unbelievable job all season and our coaches always put us in a position to be successful."
Henry, from Yulee, Fla., is the fifth Alabama player to be invited to New York for the Heisman presentation since 2009, the most of any school during that span. Before that, David Palmer (1993) and Jay Barker (1994) went in back-to-back seasons. Mark Ingram became the Crimson Tide’s first Heisman winner in 2009, Trent Richardson was a finalist in 2011, AJ McCarron finished runner-up in 2013, and Amari Cooper was a finalist last year.
Henry, who is also a finalist for the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards, has rushed for a school- and SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game with 152.8. Henry has recorded four 200-plus yard performances this year, making him just the third back in SEC history to record four in one season, joining former Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker (Georgia) and Bo Jackson (Auburn). He also has scored a rushing touchdown in 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the country and the most by an SEC player in the last 25 seasons.
Ingram is the first and only winner, but the Crimson Tide has had 20 players finish in the top 10 since the award’s inception in 1935. McCarron was runner-up in 2013 and Cooper was third last season, while Richardson (2011) and Palmer (1993) also finished third. Lee Roy Jordan (1962) and Johnny Musso (1971) finished fourth; while Joe Kilgrow (1937), Harry Gilmer (1945 and 1947), Pat Trammell (1961), Terry Davis (1971), and Barker (1994) all finished fifth.