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Alabama in the Pros

Tennessee Titans running backs coach has high hopes for Derrick Henry

Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry (No. 2) celebrated CFP national title win over Clemson: Photo courtesy of USA Today

No one questions the case of DeMarco Murray leading Tennessee’s stable of running backs for next season, but the Titans are high on its second round pick to gain much experience as a rookie.

Ex-Alabama back Derrick Henry was chosen as the 45th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. His position coach is someone that knows all to well about Henry’s alma mater, the University of Alabama.

According to Jim Wyatt, a senior writer for the Tennessee Titans, running backs coach Sylvester Croom said Henry will be “a good football player.” Croom, who enters his fourth season with the Titans (2013—present), served at linebacker, tight end and center at Alabama from 1971 to 1974.

He won the starting job at center heading into the 1974 season under coach Paul Bryant. Croom was named senior captain, while earning the Southeastern Conference’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy—given to the conference’s best blocker and an All-American selection.

Croom would go on to obtain three SEC championship rings (1972-74) and a national championship ring in 1973. He blocked for running backs in college, so it’s quite natural for him to teach young players how to use vision, speed, power and ball security in the professional game.

Henry became Alabama’s second Heisman Trophy winner in school history, after recording 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries last season. He performed an SEC first, in being the first back in conference history to total 2,000 yards rushing in a single season.

Despite his physical prowess (6-foot-3, 247 pounds), Croom said that will be Henry’s ability to learn the mental toughness and mental discipline that will factor in with him becoming a true professional.

“The talent is there, but until a rookie goes through the first season, he really doesn’t know what it takes to be a pro at this level,” Croom said.

So far, Henry has shown the same leadership with Tennessee that he displayed at Alabama. In attempts to be more than just a bruising back, he’s added versatility to his game as a receiver.

The Titans will begin training camp on July 31, while its first preseason game is scheduled for Sat, Aug. 13, 2016 inside Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.) against the San Diego Chargers.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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