<
>

Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry share Heisman bond, responsibility

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Every so often, Derrick Henry makes his way over to the back corner of the Tennessee Titans' locker room near Marcus Mariota's resting spot. Henry picks up a putter and challenges Mariota to a one-hole game of mini golf. They use a Nike shoe box with a circle cutout to represent the makeshift hole.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more humble duo, but they compete. It's back and forth, even in a meaningless golf game. That competitiveness is a shared trait that led them both to win the Heisman Trophy and embark upon successful NFL careers.

"We talk about it a little bit," Mariota said, with a smile, about their Heisman bond. "We definitely talk who had the better season."

That's a little subjective, although Mariota had one of the most impressive résumés in recent college football history.

Mariota (2014 season): 4,454 passing yards, 68.3 completion percentage, 42 passing TDs, 4 INTs; 135 rushes for 770 yards, 15 rushing TDs; 1 receiving TD

Henry (2015 season): 395 rushes for 2,219 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 28 rushing TDs; 11 catches for 91 yards

Mariota and Henry are the most recent Heisman winners to play in the NFL, and they're among just seven Heisman winners currently playing in the league. The Titans are the only NFL team with two.

Neither Mariota nor Henry will attend the Heisman ceremony Saturday as they'll be in Phoenix preparing for an important Week 14 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, but their eyes light up when they recall their Heisman memories.

"Even when I got up after they called my name, I was stuck in the seat. I had to get the seat off me," Henry said. "Before they called my name, my heart was fixing to bust out my chest. I thought I was fixing to have a heart attack. Your nerves are going, but I'm glad they called my name."

Mariota added: "The entire event was unbelievable. It was surreal. I was really just trying to take it all in. It was probably one of the best memories of my life."

Henry said it ranks No. 2 in his top life moments just behind winning a national championship at Alabama.

There's even more pride in the duo's voices when they discuss the responsibility of being a Heisman winner.

"It's a fraternity of very few people," Mariota said. "Take it all in. Enjoy the moment. It's special and something you've worked your whole life for. Second, it's a responsibility. You have to hold that standard and you have to continue to uphold what it means to be a Heisman Trophy winner."

As for this year's Heisman race, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield is the heavy favorite. Mariota and Henry did not reveal their votes, but both said they believe it'll be a close race.

"I know everybody thinks it's one-sided, but we got some ballers in the three finalists," Henry said.

Whoever wins the Heisman would do well to follow the paths and mindsets of Mariota and Henry.