Summer 2024

Titans record-breaking RB Derrick Henry credits grandmother for faith, success

The Patriots had an obvious strategy in their playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday: shut down the passing game. The Patriots defense stifled the Titans wide receivers and QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 72 yards on 8-of-15 passing.

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That left the game in the hands of Derrick Henry, whose 204 all-purpose yards — including a franchise-playoff-record 182 rushing yards — and a touchdown led the Titans to their 20-13 victory. It was yet another statement game for Henry in a season filled with them, establishing Henry as one of the best running backs in the NFL, right before he’s set to become a free agent this offseason. He was the NFL’s regular-season rushing leader with 1,540 yards.

“Seeing him in person and how hard he works, he’s grinding every day,” Titans center Ben Jones told ESPN. “He wants to be the best guy on the field, and you want to block for a guy like him. He’s just a physical specimen out there. He’s a monster.”

Henry says his work ethic, as well as his Christian faith, comes from his grandmother who raised him. After Henry’s grandfather died in 2000, Gladys Henry provided for Derrick on her own.

“She had to continue to work and provide for us as a family,” Henry told ESPN. “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 passed away on Sept. 13, 2016, two days after Henry made his NFL debut. But you can see her legacy show up in the speeches Henry has given, such as his 2015 Heisman Trophy acceptance speech:

“God is everything. 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.”

On Saturday, Henry will take his faith, and Gladys’ legacy, with him to Baltimore, where the Titans will go up against the top-seeded Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

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