TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- He has got the numbers.
He has freakish athleticism and pro potential.
His team is winning, and he’s arguably the biggest reason why.
Derrick Henry has all the ingredients to be a megastar, yet Alabama’s junior running back remains somewhat underappreciated, relatively under the radar and largely overshadowed this season.
It’s a function of timing. It’s because of Leonard Fournette.
While Henry is a name most college football fans know by now, the run Fournette is on this season has elevated his appeal and goes beyond that of the sport’s usual threshold. LSU’s star running back is now the rare kind of player at the college level who might register a Q Score, a measure of familiarity with the public at large.
In Fournette, we tune in with the sense that we’re watching history in the making. And whether fair or not, that feeling doesn’t exist with Henry.
Time, which has a way of thinning the herd to one (one national champion, one Heisman Trophy winner), seems destined to make us forget Henry’s accomplishments.
It’s a cold truth, but one you have to accept if you’re being honest with yourself.
You look back on 1982, and what do you see? Herschel Walker in a red top, silver britches and elbow pads.
You think back on 1985, and what comes to mind? Two words: Bo knows.
It was only three years ago, but how about 2012? A nickname: Johnny Football.
Try as we might, there's no room for more.
History boxes out Manti Te’o and Collin Klein, the No. 2 and 3 finishers behind Johnny Manziel in the Heisman race. It makes us forget that neither Walker nor Bo Jackson actually led the country in rushing the years they won the award. Instead, Ernest Anderson and Lorenzo White’s seasons are lost.
When Tim Tebow built his streak of games with a rushing touchdown to 14 in 2007, we handed him the Heisman. Henry, meanwhile, is one game off that mark and can’t pull himself into the top three of ESPN’s voting.
Henry already has reached 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, and he has yet to play his first game of November. But we take that kind of production for granted because it consistently trails Fournette, who leads the nation in rushing, has one more rushing touchdown and averages nearly two yards more per carry than Henry.
"He gets overshadowed, for sure," said Alabama QB Jake Coker, who just so happens to have been the backup to Jameis Winston when he won the Heisman at Florida State in 2013. "The guy is a beast. And when you see him run on the field, it’s a lot different than seeing him on TV, I can tell you that. Because some of those plays when I see him just punish people, I’ll just sit back there [and think] 'God, I feel bad for that guy.'"
Even Alabama center Ryan Kelly admitted that, “I don’t know how much people are talking about him.”
“I know how much we love him,” he said. “... I think he’s one of the best running backs in the country. We’re just lucky to have him.”
But does that appreciation exist beyond the borders of Alabama? Or does Fournette-mania drown it out on the West Coast and in the Midwest?
Maybe a prime-time SEC showdown can change that.
Fournette’s lead in the Heisman race may seem insurmountable now, but Saturday’s matchup of No. 4 LSU and No. 2 Alabama could give Henry the stage he needs to state his case.
Both players will be running for a win and a chance to keep their teams' playoff hopes alive, but they'll also be competing for their own legacies.
A decade from now, we’ll only remember one. Who will it be?