In 2016, Derrick Henry had to make a decision. The running back drafted out of Alabama had been wearing No. 2 during rookie camp with the Tennessee Titans. Per NFL rules, he had to wear a number between 20-49 when the regular season began. Henry chose 22 for a very touching reason.
Derrick Henry has become the NFL’s best running back
For the second straight season, Henry has led the league in rushing. He’s also led the league in rushing attempts ad touchdowns. This season, he surpassed the 2,000-yard mark, finishing the season with 2,027 yards. He averaged 126.7 yards per game and finished with 17 rushing touchdowns.
His 2,000 season comes on the heels of a 2019 season when he led the league with 1,540 rushing yards. Henry led the NFL despite missing one game. He also collected 16 touchdowns that season. In five seasons, Henry has racked up 55 rushing scores.
Henry and the Tennessee Titans are back in the playoffs
A year ago, the Tennessee Titans pulled off a pair of playoff shockers. In the opening round, the Titans traveled to Foxboro and put an end to the New England Patriots season. Tennessee upset the Patriots in what turned out to be Tom Brady’s final game as a member of the Patriots.
The Titans then went back on the road to face Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens. Tennessee dominated the game and came away with a 28-12 victory. The Titans advanced to the AFC title game, where they lose 35-24 to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Titans are back in the playoffs after capturing the AFC South with an 11-5 record. The find themselves in a rematch with Jackson and the Ravens. This time, the Titans are home, but enter Sunday’s game as a three-point underdog.
The somber reason Henry wears No. 22
As a rookie, Derrick Henry wore No. 2 during camp, but had to switch to a number between 20-49 per NFL rules. Henry made the switch to No. 22. He chose the number to honor a college teammate who was killed in a car accident on Oct. 20, 2015. Henry paid tribute to his friend Altee Tenpenny, his backfield mate at Alabama.
“I’m glad I was able to get the number than I wanted to get — this is for my friend, Altee Tenpenny, who I played with at Bama,” Henry told ESPN in 2016. “He wore it in high school. So I’m very, very excited about that. He was a good friend of mine, basically like a best friend, somebody that I knew since high school, going to camps where we were competing against each other then we both went to Bama together. He transferred out of Bama and he died in a car crash last year.”
Henry, who was coming off a Heisman Trophy-winning season, said No. 22 was his first choice. “I try to remember his name and honor his name the best way I can,” he said. No. 22 has clearly been very good to Henry and the Titans.