Win the Heisman Trophy and lead your team to the national championship, and there is about a 100 per cent chance that you will be selected the Amateur Athlete of the Year for the state of Alabama for 2015 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. So it is no surprise that when the ASWA has its annual awards banquet in Birmingham Sunday that Crimson Tide star tailback Derrick Henry will add to his hardware.
Henry, a native of Yulee, Fla., was a starter for only one season at Alabama, and what a season it was. He was selected as the Heisman Trophy winner and the Maxwell Award winner, both given to the nation’s most outstanding college football player, was Walter Camp Player of the Year, and was also winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. He was unanimous All-America and the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Henry led the nation with a Southeastern Conference record 2,219 yards rushing last season. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry on his 395 rushes and averaged 147.9 yards per game. He rushed for 28 touchdowns, including two in Bama’s College Football Playoff national championship game win over Clemson. He had 10 games in which he rushed for over 100 yards and four 200-yard games, breaking Bobby Humphrey’s Bama record.
He scored rushing touchdowns in a record 20 consecutive games dating back to 2014.
Among those Henry surpassed in SEC statistics in rushing were former Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, and Mark Ingram, and he erased the touchdown record held by former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. In SEC games he averaged 179.2 yards per game rushing.
"I definitely want to thank the media members who voted for me for this award," Henry said. "It's a blessing, and I'm very appreciative of it. I couldn't accomplish it without my teammates and my coaches, who worked hard with me through my time at Alabama.
"It was a memorable season for me and for the whole team. There were a lot of us working hard to make it the kind of season we had. For me to win this award, I owe it all to them. To be chosen by the writers as the amateur athlete of the year, I'm very thankful, very honored, very appreciative, very blessed to be in this position."
Henry’s toughness and durability were his trademarks. The 6-3, 242-pound tailback averaged over 100 yards per game rushing after contact. He had 26 carries for 148 yards in a win at Georgia, 32 rushes for 236 yards in a win at Texas A&M, 28 for 143 in a win over Tennessee, 38 for 210 in a win over LSU (including running out the clock (9:18) with 10 carries for 78 yards in 13 plays, 22 carries for 204 yards in a win at Mississippi State, and a school record 46 carries for 271 yards in a win at Auburn. His rushing yardage against the Tigers was more than Auburn’s total offense for the game (260 yards).
He was MVP of the SEC Championship Game as he rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown in the win over Florida.
Henry departed Alabama following his junior season to enter the NFL draft and was the 45th player taken in this year’s selections, going to the Tennessee Titans.
Henry is the 18th Alabama athlete to be named the Amateur Athlete of the Year by the ASWA since the award was inaugurated in 1974. The first two selections were golfer Jerry Pate in 1974 and basketball player Leon Douglas in 1975. Since then the recipients have included football player Ozzie Newsome in 1977, basketball player Reggie King in 1978, baseball player David Magadan in 1983, football player Cornelius Bennett in 1986, football player Derrick Thomas in 1988, football player Gary Hollingsworth in 1989, football player Philip Doyle in 1990, gymnast Dee Foster in 1992, basketball player Neisa Johnson in 1993, football player Jay Barker in 1994, football player Chris Samuels in 1999, football player DeMeco Ryans in 2005, football player Mark Ingram in 2009, football player Trent Richardson in 2011, and football player Amari Cooper in 2014.