A Saturday night television presentation that was far too long was ultimately rescued by two rights – the announcement of Alabama tailback Derrick Henry being named winner of the 2015 Heisman Trophy and the heartfelt acceptance speech from the Crimson Tide star.
Henry, a junior from tiny Yulee, Fla., starting in his first season for the Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban, has had an extraordinary year. And it’s not over. Henry has led his Alabama team to a second seed in the College Football Playoffs and a meeting against No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31. The winners of the Cotton and Orange (Clemson vs. Oklahoma) will meet Jan. 11 in Phoenix for the national championship.
Although there had been discussion that more players should have been in New York for Saturday night’s presentation, the final vote showed that it was truly a three-man race. Henry had 1,832 points (ballots are cast with votes for the first, second, and third choices) with tailback Christian McCaffrey of Stanford finishing second with 1,539 and quarterback Deshaun Watson of Clemson third with 1,165 votes.
Henry was listed on over 86 per cent of all ballots.
Heisman Trophy voters are spread evenly by regions. Henry won in the South, Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southwest, and was second to McCaffrey in the Far West
Just as he has provided dominating finishes on the football field this year in leading Bama to a 12-1 record, Henry’s words of acceptance were the best of many, many, many words in the 90-minute ESPN broadcast.
As he does in every (usually much briefer) interview with Alabama reporters, he put God and his teammates and his family first; and thanked not only his position coach, Burton Burns, and head coach, but also those in the support roles for strength and conditioning, medical, and academics. Henry contratulated his co-finalists and wished them well. He accepted the Heisman with a memorial to his former Tide teammate, Altee Tenpenny, who was killed in an automobile accident this fall.
And he concluded with a “Roll Tide!”
To say it has been a good week for Henry is an understatement. Earlier he was presented with the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back, was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year, and won the Maxwell Trophy, presented to the nation’s best college player. He is just the fourth player in college football history win all four awards in the same season and the first since Ron Dayne accomplished the feat at Wisconsin in 1999.
Henry won the award six years after Alabama had its first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, in 2009. This was the last time a running back had won the award since Ingram, who led the Tide to a national championship that season.
He is the 41st running back to win the Heisman Trophy, but just the ninth since 1985. He is the 12th player in Southeastern Conference history to win the Heisman Trophy and the first since Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) in 2012. The conference has now claimed four of the last seven Heismans. Other SEC winners include Frank Sinkwich (Georgia), Billy Cannon (LSU), Steve Spurrier (Florida), Pat Sullivan (Auburn), Herschel Walker (Georgia), Bo Jackson (Auburn), Danny Weurffel (Florida), Tim Tebow (Florida), Ingram (Alabama) and Cam Newton (Auburn).
Henry ran 339 times for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s starting running back. He shattered the Alabama single-season rushing record and the SEC single-season rushing record that was previously held by Walker in 1981. 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, joining Walker (Georgia) and Jackson (Auburn) as the only backs in SEC history to record four in one season. He has matched the all-time SEC single-season rushing touchdown mark and has recorded a rushing touchdown in 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the country and the most by any player in SEC history.
In seven games against top-25 teams, Henry ran for 1,261 yards and 13 touchdowns on 198 carries for a 180.1 yards per game average. In nine SEC games, he averaged 180 yards per game in leading the Tide to its second straight SEC Championship and 25th in school history. Henry recorded nine 100-yard games this season, tying the Alabama record held by Ingram and Trent Richardson. His 271 rushing yards in the Nov. 28 Iron Bowl at Auburn is the third-highest single-game total in school history and the most by any player in the rivalry’s history. He was a five-time SEC Offensive Player of the Week winner, earning the award against Wisconsin (13-147-3), Georgia (26-148-1), Texas A&M (32-236-2), Mississippi State (22-204-2) and Auburn (46-271-1).