Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has done it once again: He is the NFL rushing champion for the second consecutive season after amassing 2,027 yards during the regular season. He’s the first back-to-back rushing champion since LaDainian Tomlinson (’06-’07).
The Titans’ bruiser became the eighth player in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard milestone, and the first since Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 in 2012. In doing so, Henry willed his team to a thrilling 41-38 victory Sunday over the Houston Texans. The game culminated in a last-second 37-yard field goal by Sam Sloman, in which the ball hit the right upright and bounced in, securing the AFC South division title for Tennessee and the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Henry’s 34 carries for 250 yards and two touchdowns marked his 10th game rushing for more than 100 yards this season, and his third game of more than 200. He is the first player in NFL history to have three straight games with more than 200 yards against a single opponent.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, in his fifth season in the NFL with the Titans, signed a four-year, $50 million contract with Tennessee on July 15 after being placed on the franchise tag in the spring. He is quickly piling up accolades and stamping his name on the title of best running back in the NFL — and he’s accomplished it all with a cross drawn in eye black under his eyes.
Henry recently spoke about his Christian faith with Rob and Remy Maaddi on the podcast the couple hosts, Faith on the Field.
“I pray all the time,” Henry said. “I’m always thankful for all my blessings that God has given to me, to me and my family. My grandmother always told me, ‘Always keep God first. Always thank Him for everything in your life, good or bad.’
“I always thought, ‘What can I do to basically show off God? What can I do more than just a celebration or things like that?’ So I just thought that maybe I could put the cross on my face. It’s like He’s out there with me playing and doing the things that I’m doing.”
Henry’s NFL stardom has given him the platform to impact people, and he is doing so with his Two All Foundation. The foundation exists to level the playing field for today’s youth so that their future success is not limited by the circumstances of their upbringing, background, disability or influence.
Henry has often given credit to his grandmother for introducing him to Christ at a young age. After Henry’s grandfather died in 2000, his grandmother, Gladys Henry, raised him on her own.
“She had to continue to work and provide for us as a family,” Henry said a year ago. “Watching her get up when she didn’t want to, she worked at the Holiday Inn cleaning the hotels, so we had food on our table, clothes on our back and a roof over our head. That’s what I will always remember. It’s what she instilled in me. Always work hard. Always keep God first. Prayer is powerful. That’s what I believe in, and it’s what I will one day teach my kids.”
Gladys’s impact on Henry’s faith was obvious, with his faith most prominently on display during his 2015 Heisman Trophy acceptance speech:
“God is everything,” he said. “Always keep God first. Always pray. Don’t be afraid to pray; He’ll always hear your cry. If you have dreams, go chase ’em. If you believe it, you can achieve it. God will be there every step of the way. I’m a living testament, man. … I never thought I’d be up here, but, you know, God is good. I get on my hands and knees every night and pray. I’m thankful for everything. Keep God first, always pray, and you’ll always chase your dream.”
With the playoffs looming, Henry and the Titans are hoping for similar postseason success as last year, when they advanced to the AFC Championship Game as the No. 6 seed, after wins over No. 3 New England and No. 1 Baltimore.
The Ravens, now the No. 5 seed, will be the Titans’ opponent in the wild-card round this year. The game is set for 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN.