For the past two seasons, NFL defenses have tried their best to stop Derrick Henry. All they can really do, however, is hope to contain him.
Last season, Henry had 2,027 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns en route to being named the Offensive Player of the Year. Through the first seven games of the 2021 season, “King Henry” is putting together the best encore football fans have seen in a long time.
Heading into Week 8, Henry already has 869 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. It just seems like his large workload never fazes him.
With Henry playing at an MVP level, the Tennessee Titans have emerged as legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the AFC. Over the past two weeks, they’ve knocked off the two teams that made the AFC Championship Game this past January, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs.
We sat down with Derrick Henry to discuss the Titans’ recent hot streak, his pursuit of 2,000 rushing yards for a second season in a row, representing Team Milk and much more.
This interview is presented by GonnaNeedMilk.com.
The Spun: What about this partnership with Team Milk makes it a good fit for you?
Derrick Henry: I was happy and excited to partner with Team Milk just because milk has been a part of my life for a long time. I was encouraged as a young kid by my grandmother to drink milk because it’s good for my bones. To be able to encourage younger kids now is really cool. I love the partnership - I still drink milk now to help out my performance. I’m excited to see what’s next for us.
The Spun: What was it like filming that video of you trucking through the aisles of a supermarket?
DH: That was cool, man. It was something different that I’ve never done, just knocking aisles down to get to the gallon of milk. Then, I got to throw the milk down. It was definitely really cool. It’s something I try to implement on the field [trucking through defenders], so it was fun.
The Spun:You have one of the most ferocious stiff arms in the NFL. How did it originate?
DH: The stiff arm just came naturally to me because I’ve always been tall with long arms, so it was something I just used from a young age. Whenever I’m one-on-one with a defender, I try to use it as much as I can to gain extra yards.
The Spun: The Titans defeated the Bills on Monday night, and then blew out the Chiefs the following Sunday. What type of statement have the Titans made over the past two weeks?
DH: We’re just locked in and focused on how we play in all three phases each and every week. We try not to make it about the opponent, but how we play instead. That’s all we can really do. We’re trying to be 1-0 each week and not try to get too hyped. We appreciate how we’ve played the past two weeks, but we’re also looking for ways to improve for the next game.
The Spun: You had a touchdown pass in the Chiefs game. Should we expect another pass thrown from you this season?
DH: It was very cool. I was happy we were able to execute that play - I actually had one in 2019 in the playoffs. I was happy we were able to call another play like that and I threw an accurate enough ball for my teammate [MyCole Pruitt] to catch it. Hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity soon.
The Spun: Did Ryan Tannehill bother you about him being wide open on that touchdown pass?
DH: Not at all. It was so funny because after the game I realized they were wide open. I was happy I threw a touchdown pass anyway, but those guys on the left side of the field were wide open.
The Spun: Last year, you had over 2,000 rushing yards. This year, you already have 869 rushing yards. Are you thinking about another 2,000-yard season?
DH: Not really. I don’t really think about it or get too caught up in it. I’m just trying to get better each week and watch the film to see how I can improve my game. I don’t want to get too caught up in what the future holds because I want to focus on being in the moment with my teammates.
The Spun: I know it seems like a loaded question, but how are you able to overcome such a large workload?
DH: Drinking milk certainly helps. My recovery process revolves around me taking care of my body, doing everything I can to get it back to full strength every week, come out to practice, and get one percent better each day.
The Spun: Do you feel like running backs get enough love when it comes to the MVP conversation?
DH: I don’t really get too much into that or think about it too much because it’s so early in the season. I try to control what I can control, and I definitely can’t control that outside stuff.
The Spun: Speaking of things you can control, how important is this weekend’s game against the Indianapolis Colts?
DH: This is a big and very important game. We always play each other tough. The Colts are a four-quarter team, they’re solid in all three phases and coming off a big win over San Francisco. It’s always a tough matchup, so we need to make sure we prepare ourselves and do all the right things on Sunday.
The Spun: Your high school stats go viral pretty much every time you step on the field. Do you ever get tired of it?
DH: I get asked that all the time. I just prepare myself for it every year after a big game. It’s something that pops up each and every year [laughs].
The Spun: Have you and Mark Ingram ever talked about the viral picture from the 2016 national championship game?
DH: Mark isn’t too fond of that picture [laughs]. But you know how social media is. They catch something and run with it. That photo goes viral every year too. But, yeah, Mark is a great player in his own right and that’s my brother.
The Spun: Do you just have a stash of ‘Angry Run’ scepters from Good Morning Football at this point?
DH: Yeah, I have a good amount of them. I’m very appreciative of him [Kyle Brandt] and the ‘Angry Run’ segment he does. He brings a lot of energy each and every time he does one of them, and I know players look forward to being on the segment.
The Spun: Who’s a defensive player you know is going to be a heavy hitter when you’re running the ball?
DH: There are so many guys who make great plays each and every snap. I think Darius Leonard is a game-wrecker and always around the ball. Zach Cunningham from the Houston Texans is a smash-mouth type of player as well. Those two guys are in my division, so I get to see them a lot.
The Spun: What is the one thing the Titans need to do to get over the hump in the playoffs?
DH: I don’t think we try to get too caught up in that. I think week by week we need to find things to work on. It’s a long and tough season, and all you can do is figure out how you can improve without getting too far ahead of yourself.
The Spun: The Titans’ defense has really stepped up lately. Does that give the offense even more confidence each time you go out there for a series?
DH: Those guys are playing incredible football. They’re making big plays and doing the things we see every practice. You always want to see good things happen for your teammates, so it’s been great seeing them take things to the next level.
The Spun: What would a young Derrick Henry think about his current résumé?
DH: I always wanted to be great. I’ll continue to work at being great as long as I play this game, I’ll continue to keep God first, and give my coaches and teammates the praise. I don’t want to get too caught up in it right now, but when everything is all said and done, I think I’ll look back and be appreciative of what I’ve done. But right now, I’m still hungry and want to keep working at being great.
While there are plenty of fans who believe the running back position will go extinct in this passing league, Derrick Henry is proving that good things can still happen to teams that run the football in 2021.
If Henry can sustain his current pace, he should win his third straight rushing title. And if all goes well, he could end up rushing for over 2,000 yards yet again.
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