The football career of 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry reads sort of like a Paul Bunyan-esque tall tale.
As a senior at Yulee High School, 25 miles north of Jacksonville, Fla., Henry scored 55 touchdowns in only 13 games in his senior season.
He once ran for 510 yards in a game in high school, which is a national mark for rushing in a game.
He broke a more than 50-year-old high school career rushing record with 12,124 yards in just four years.
He ran an 11.11 100-meter dash to place seventh at his high school state meet.
At the age of 15, he ran for 2,465 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first year of high school.
The morning after he ran the ball 44 times against Auburn back in November, the story goes he was in the Alabama weight room going through a full weight room workout before the strength and conditioning staff forced him to shut it down.
Unlike Paul Bunyun, the stories and tales above are 100-percent true.
Of course, after following Henry for years, nothing he does is shocking, including running a 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at the NFL combine, a feat the prompted a noticeable buzz from Lucas Oil Stadium (and beyond) in February. Andy Staples of SI.com, who has seen Henry for years, remarked that NFL media were asking the same question he did when Henry arrived in Tuscaloosa.
“How is a man that big, running that fast?”
There haven’t been many like Henry at this position in the past. Experts and analysts love to compare a player to one they’ve seen before — former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. But that comparison is nearly impossible with Henry. What running back in history was 6-foot-3, 247 pounds and ran a 4.54 in the 40-yd dash?
Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders called it “making a business decision” when a defensive back was faced with tackling a hard-charging running back in the open field. There were plenty of college defensive backs that made business decisions when Henry was near and there will be plenty of NFL defenders thinking the same thing in the near future. When Henry gets in the open field, it’s more like a runaway train that has to be caught first.
There will be a number of teams that would like to catch him in the 2016 NFL draft, but he won’t likely be the first running back off the board. That honor goes to another truly talented runner.
The Top 10 Running Backs for 2016
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Projected: 1st round
Elliott is as complete a back as any NFL team could want that next level. He loves to run the A Gap power, can get the edge on zone stretch and catches anything thrown his way. He’s a true three down offensive weapon and why he’s top back on this board.
2. Derrick Henry, Alabama
Projected: Late 1st/early 2nd
3. Devontae Booker, Utah
Wearing No. 23, it’s hard to not visualize Arian Foster, the former great Texans all-around running back, when watching Booker. He’s smooth in getting to and through holes in the defense. He’s one of, if not, the best receiver in this running back group. The only thing holding him back at this point is a late-season injury he suffered in November against Arizona.
4. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
When asked what running back he likes to emulate, Dixon answered “Marshall Faulk.” He’s not Faulk — no one is — but that’s the style Dixon models. He’s tough as a two-dollar steak and runs as if he’s trying to prove his manhood on every carry. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Furthermore, the soft-spoken Dixon is as competitive as it gets and takes a backseat to nobody.
5. C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame
When Notre Dame’s starter was lost for the season, Irish head coach Brian Kelly moved Prosise, a slot receiver, to running back. After a few games at running back, it was hard to imagine Prosise at any other position. He glides to the hole, slithers through it and then bursts to the end zone with 4.4 speed. Ironically, he doesn’t catch the ball all that well, but his explosiveness and speed are attractive, especially for a 6-1, 220-pound offensive weapon.
6. Alex Collins, Arkansas
His feet. It’s the first thing anyone notices watching Collins. His feet never stop, like pistons in a car, firing on every single step. He doesn’t go down easily and rarely loses yards on his carries. If he can catch the ball consistently at the next level, he could be a gem, perhaps as late as early Day 3.
7. Jordan Howard, Indiana
When UAB disbanded its football program, Howard traveled north, looking for a program that could use his services immediately. He found that in Bloomington and the one-year marriage was beneficial on both sides. Howard is a big back with good vision and he runs behind his pads. He had a few of his best games in 2015 against some of the best competition in the B1G.
8. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
A season-ending injury shelved Williams in preseason camp and kept him off the field in 2015. When he was on the field in his first three seasons, he showed he was a patient and smooth runner with adequate burst to succeed at the next level. He should be 100-percent ready to go by mini-camp and OTAs.
9. Paul Perkins, UCLA
Perkins isn’t blessed with blazing speed but he’s great at exploiting holes in the defense. He won’t run through a ton of tackles and needs some space to flourish with quickness and shake. However, he’s underrated and a team will love to see him on the board on Day 3.
10. Peyton Barber, Auburn
Barber declared early due to family hardship and financial issues, but it may work out in the long run. He’s got a little LeSean McCoy in his game, although he’s not as jaw dropping-ly dynamic as Shady. Quicker than he is fast, the 228-pound Barber finishes runs with some pop.
John Harris contributes to the Washington Post’s NFL draft coverage. He is the sideline reporter and football analyst for the Houston Texans and owner of footballtakeover.com.