The following is a sports commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Anchor Rick Karle.
Maybe it's because I'm a media guy, a middle-aged man to whom Derrick Henry can't relate. I've talked with the Heisman winner several times, whether it be one-on-one or in a pre or post-game setting.
Each time, I never learned much, as Henry would always play it safe as he would respond with answers such as, "I just want to thank my offensive line," or "I'm not worried about the Heisman, I'm just worried about helping my team win."
But Saturday night I learned a boatload about this young man, who after playing his heart out the last several years, poured his heart out after accepting the Heisman Trophy.
Henry's parents were mere children when Derrick arrived. His father Derrick, Sr. was 16-years-old his mother Stacy 15-years-old. The young Derrick was raised in tiny Yulee, Florida by his mother Stacy and his grandmother Gladys. In fact, the young Henry was given the nickname "Shocker" by his grandma as it was indeed a shock when her grandson was born to such young parents.
It wasn't an easy childhood, but on Saturday night there the Heisman winner stood, putting family hardships aside and thanking his mom, his dad, his grandma and just about everyone associated with the University Of Alabama.
To his mother, who urged him not to transfer from Alabama after a freshman season that saw Henry get only 28 carries: "You're my best friend, you are always there for me, I love you."
To his father, who experienced his share of personal trouble as the young Derrick grew into a man: "From your number one fan, you always kept me in sports when I was young."
To his grandmother Gladys, who was lying in a Florida hospital bed, unable to attend the ceremony: "You made me what I am today. I love you so much. You taught me about hard work and dedication. You told me to put God first."
To his head coach Nick Saban, who in Henry's freshman year found that his tough love nearly resulted in the tailback leaving the Capstone: "You are the man who always believed in me. I know every day you would challenge me. I love you coach."
And the Heisman winner was not done, thanking his Alabama teammates, his strength coach and his running backs coach Burton Burns, saying, "I'm so proud to call you my coach. You stuck with me, I learned so much from you."
How heartfelt was this acceptance speech? Derrick Henry thanked Athletic Director Bill Battle saying, "Thank you for allowing me to play for the University Of Alabama." He even thanked his professors and his academic support staff, something I've never heard that from previous Heisman winners.
Henry capped it all off with a message to kids, a place where he stood only a few years ago.
"God is everything. Don't be afraid to pray. If you have dreams, chase them and God will be with you every step of the way," Henry said.
It doesn't get any better than that. On Saturday, night the young man who doesn't have much to say to the media had a whole lot to say to those he loves. The 1986 rushing yards in 2015? The SEC single-season rushing record, the first team All-American honors, the Doak Walker Award, the Maxwell Award, the Heisman Trophy? They are impressive indeed, but not as impressive as his performance on Saturday night. Derrick Henry poured out his heart and in so doing so, taught America about his life, his character and his spirit. Job well done young man, and thanks for letting us get to know you!
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