Before Derrick Henry became a Heisman Trophy finalist, he was a superstar player for Yulee High in Florida and was named to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA first team in 2012.
That honor followed a senior season in which Henry ran for 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 12,124 yards, which broke a national record that had lasted for more than 50 years. His 153 rushing TDS ranked No. 5 in the national high school record books.
Here’s a scary fact: Henry was listed as 6-3, 240 as a high school senior. He’s listed on the Alabama roster at 6-3, 242. Imagine a player of Henry’s current size in high school and you can see why he dominated.
In advance of Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports caught up with Henry’s high school coach at Yulee, Bobby Ramsay.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Derrick on the field back in high school?
Bobby Ramsay: Ah man, shoot that’s tough. Well, it was back when he was in the tenth grade and, at the time, we had never been to the playoffs. We had the chance to clinch a playoff, but we were down 21-3 at halftime. He came out in the second half and rallied the troops with his play. We put him in on defense and he blocked a punt; he was all over the place. Then we put him at running back after we’d closed it to three and he gets 30 yards on the first carry. We were planning to go into our two-minute drill after that, but he runs again and gets to their 4-yard line. I went from “two-minute drill” mode to “wait let’s take our time” mode. Our two-minute drill consisted of us handing him the ball, which kinda feels like cheating but, hey, we had 11 guys on the field so…
JJ: What’s your best memory of Derrick off the field back then?
BR: Just the talks we’d have when I’d take him on trips. I remember taking him to Alabama and I let him control the radio and he had the worst taste in music. I love hip hop, but I like late 1990s hip hop and he loves the new stuff. I was praying to God that we’d get to a certain point where the signal would drop. That was pretty funny.
JJ: Did he excel in any other sports?
BR: He did weight lifting, he did track and he was a hell of a basketball player. He, like most guys, wanted to hang out around the three-point line, but he was a post player. He had a pretty good shot though.
JJ: What’s the craziest story you can remember from his recruitment?
BR: Probably when he committed to Georgia initially. He went up for their Dawg Night and I had no idea what was going on. My running backs coach took him on the visit and I’m at my girlfriend’s house watching a baseball game and my coach calls and says, “I think he wants to commit!” I was like, “What? He’s been there 10 minutes!” I never saw that coming. It was pretty crazy, but I think he was just caught up in the moment. He was just getting the hang of seeing these places and realizing that they’re all pretty awesome.
JJ: What other talents did he have away from sports?
BR: You know what, he used to do the morning announcements at school. He’d be on our in-school production set reading off the announcements for the students on TV. He was pretty good too!
JJ: Is there any doubt in your mind about who will take home the Heisman?
BR: Not at all. Derrick definitely deserves it. You look at what he’s meant to that team and the production he’s had against the top competition. You start talking about breaking Herschel Walker’s records and Bo Jackson’s records; these guys are true legends and he’s passing them. Look at what he did against Wisconsin, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State. Then you carry your team in the SEC championship game. Nothing against those other two guys, they’re outstanding, but I think Derrick should win that.
JJ: Has the Heisman always been the ultimate goal even back then for Derrick?
BR: He definitely said in an interview in high school that he wanted to win the Heisman so I know this has been on his mind for a while.
JJ: What’s his ceiling as a player?
BR: I think he’s a guy that is hard to compare to anyone because he’s so big and fast. He needs to be in an offense that allows him to run downhill. He’s become a more patient runner and I think he’s got Pro Bowl ability; beyond that, like Hall of Fame or something like that depends on where he ends up and how healthy he remains. Either way, I certainly feel like he has what it takes to be one of the top backs in the NFL.
Here’s how Derrick Henry got it done in high school.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY