When Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry rumbled for a 99-yard touchdown run in a 30-9 win over Jacksonville on Dec. 6, he joined an ultra exclusive club.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound behemoth and former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama added his name to that of Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett as the only two players in the 98-year history of the NFL to cover the full distance on the ground. Dorsett‘s feat came in a 31-27 season finale loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football on January 3, 1983.
Amazingly, Dorsett’s run came on a broken play and with only 10 Cowboys on the field.
Minnesota had just scored on a pick-six on the first play of the fourth quarter that cold night in the Metrodome, and the Cowboys had fumbled the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the 1. That’s when Dorsett made the most a very bad situation.
According to www.profootballhalloffame.com, the play called in the huddle was for Ron Springs to get the handoff, but he misunderstood and dashed off the field, leaving the Dallas offense a man short. With the ball resting literally inches from the goalline before the snap, Dorsett took the handoff from quarterback Danny White, got a great block from guard Herb Scott up the middle and was on his way “99 and half yards” as both Don Meredith and Howard Cosell called it on the ABC broadcast.
Henry’s record-setter had a bit of intrigue about it as well. The play Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur sent in the game gave quarterback Marcus Mariota the option to check to a sneak just get the ball off the goalline or make the handoff to Henry. Obviously he made the right choice.
Henry took the handoff in the end zone, broke to his left and set sail up the sideline, delivering stiff arms that were more like right crosses to three different Jaguars defenders before reaching the far distant end zone. It was those stiff arms that left his teammates and coaches searching for words more than anything.
“He just ran out of guys to stiff arm,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “Just be careful getting too close to him because I think I saw three of them from the 30 on.”
It was part of breakout performance for the third-year pro, who set the franchise single-game record with 238 yards rushing and four touchdowns. In fact, Henry had almost as many rushing TDs in this game as he did in each of his first two complete seasons of 2016 and 2017 when he recorded five each year. He rushed for 490 yards his rookie season, 748 in 2017 and already has 712 with three games remaining.
Henry called it the No. 1 game in his football career and said he kept the game ball from the 99-yarder for sure, probably to show off to Dorsett the next time he sees him.
“I got to spend a lot of time with him when I was at the Heisman,” Henry said. “You know he’s a legend. It’s cool to be in the company of Tony.”
Henry’s was the 15th total TD of 99 yards in NFL history, with 13 of them coming on pass plays.
When asked to describe Henry’s performance Mariota said, “Speechless. I had a front row seat for it, and it’s still hard to put into words.” H&A
All photos courtesy Tennessee Titans