YULEE, Fla. - It was long overdue for No. 2.
Yulee graduate Derrick Henry was back in his hometown on Thursday night as the Hornets honored the record-shattering running back by retiring his high school number during halftime of a spring football game against Jackson. Not only did Henry have his jersey retired, but the school unveiled a mural with Henry on it that stretches across a wall heading to the locker room.
"I thought it was a cool deal. I'm honored and humbled by it," Henry said. "I just want to open up doors for kids who are from Yulee and the whole First Coast area. It's a moment I'll never forget.
The former Alabama star and current Tennessee Titans player has starred on every level that he’s played on, winning a Heisman Trophy in college and then getting into the record books in the NFL with a sensational 2018 season in Nashville.
But it all began in Yulee, from Pop Warner to high school, and coming back to ground zero was full-circle for Henry.
"I'm proud to rep Yulee," Henry said. "I haven't been back in while and I'm glad to be back."
It wasn’t a question about when his No. 2 jersey would be retired, but when, and when was Thursday. Ironically, Henry set the state single-game record of 502 rushing yards on Sept. 21, 2012, in a 45-28 win over Jackson.
Henry is as dominant as a player as there’s been at any position in high school football.
He pulverized a 59-year-old national rushing record during his otherworldly senior season in 2012 during an all-out assault on the record books. Henry finished with 12,124 yards.
Sugar Land, Texas’ Ken Hall held the record, and only one player other than Hall (Michael Hart of Onondaga Central High in New York) had even cracked the 11,000-yard-career mark.
Along came Henry.
He shattered the single-season state rushing record, finishing with 4,261 yards during his final season.
It was during that year that Henry helped catapult a growing, but tiny town of Yulee onto the national radar. While Yulee was on the upswing as a booming town in Nassau County, Henry certainly helped accelerate the process.
"I was always that kid who looked up to athletes. I had a role model," Henry said. "I just want to be what I looked up to as a kid. It's so cool to see the look on their faces and the impact I can have. I just want to be a great example and I hope they can follow in my footsteps and be even better."
His pursuit of Hall’s national rushing record in 2012 brought more media attention to Yulee. And when he roared into the Heisman Trophy conversation midway through the 2015 college football season, Yulee was more in the national conversation than ever.
Henry becomes the second Heisman Trophy winner from the area to have his high school jersey number retired. Former Nease quarterback Tim Tebow, who led the Panthers to the 4A state championship during his senior season in 2005, had his No. 5 jersey retired in 2012.
Tebow went on to a record-setting career at the University of Florida and won the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007. Henry won the Heisman in his junior season in 2015.
As a pro, Henry tied the NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown run. It happened against the Jaguars, a run he's heard quite a bit about from family and friends.
"It's been a popular question," Henry said. "Everybody has their game and that night I was just on."
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