Hometown hopes for Heisman for Henry

Yulee High and Alabama star a finalist for coveted college football award

YULEE, Fla. – Yulee Florida doesn't have a mayor.

It doesn't have a downtown.

But it's got football -- and Derrick Henry.

The record-breaking running back at Yulee High School went on to stardom at the University of Alabama and is now a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, the most-coveted award in college football.

Henry already took home three major awards Thursday night: the Maxwell Award, given to the best all-around player, the Doak Walker Award, given to the outstanding running back of the year, and the Walter Camp National Player of the Year award.

"The community's bonded around him. When I come to school, when I come to work every day, teachers ask about him, students ask about him,” said J.T. Medley, Henry's middle school coach and mentor. “They're all excited right now about possibly winning the Heisman. There's a lot of excitement in the community."

People ask Medley, a middle-school science teacher, about Henry because the football phenom has lived with the Medley family since he was a sophomore in high school.

Medley remembers watching Henry play on the middle school field and knowing he'd be a star for two simple reasons.

"One, he was bigger than most of the other kids and two, they couldn't catch him,” Medley said.

Henry is known for his humility, maturity and work ethic.

Medley will share the exciting Heisman announcement with Henry's parents when he meets them in New York for the ceremony. It will truly be a family affair.

“He's like a son to me and always will be,” Medley said.

Henry's high school football coach said Henry kind of belongs to everyone in Yulee.

"I don't think there's a person in the community that doesn't know that he's got a good shot at it and he's up for it,” Bobby Ramsay said.

Ramsay is headed to New York, too, and said Henry is more than just a wildly talented athlete.

"He respected the game. And that's big,” Ramsay said. “A lot of players don't respect the game. They think they are the game."

Right now, Derrick Henry is Yulee.

"Not a lot of people knew where Yulee, Florida, was. They may not still know where it is. But they've heard the name,” Ramsay said.

The Salty Pelican in Fernandina Beach will host a watch party for the Heisman announcement, starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

TJ Pelletier, who owns the Salty Pelican, was a volunteer coach when Henry played for Yulee.

Henry also has a lot of family in the area. Everyone seems to have a connection to the hometown hero who's now a Heisman hopeful.

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