NASHVILLE – As a freshman at the University of Alabama, running back Damien Harris watched Derrick Henry work – in the weight room, in practices, and in games.
Harris was Henry's back-up in 2015, and he had an up-close look at his Heisman Trophy-winning season. Harris then saw Henry get drafted to the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, and has followed his success since.
But the contact never stopped when Henry's playing days at the school ended. Harris credits Henry for supporting him, and showing him the way. The same can be said for Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, who never played with Henry, but has spent time with him when he's returned to campus.
Harris and Jacobs are now gearing up for this year's NFL Draft, where they'll join Henry in the league.
"Derrick has been a tremendous role model for me," Harris said. "My freshman year, seeing the things he did and accomplished was unbelievable. It kind of set a pretty high standard after he left. Derrick has always been a great player, a great person and a great mentor so I'm thankful for that.
"I've talked to Derrick a lot since he left. He's always been there to give us advice. During the season he always gave us advice. Once the season ended as far as things like picking an agent or the NFL combine or what the transition is like, he's (been there)."
In three seasons at Alabama (2013-15), Henry played in 39 games and totaled 602 carries for a school-record 3,591 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns.
Henry's now three years into his NFL career, but he's been back on campus in Tuscaloosa on a regular basis. Henry returned to campus last offseason, and graduated from the school. He's worked out in the training facility at Alabama in each of the past three offseasons, including this year.
"He's like a big brother," Jacobs said of Henry. "He makes a lot of jokes but his work ethic, when he comes back and works out with us, is different. It shows me the level of competition I need to be at, and he gives me great tips about life and even during a game when he sees me, like "you need to slow down on the run or anything like that.
"I talk to Derrick all the time. He gives all the running backs advice, just about the league and how to go about playing the game the right way, and about working hard. He's one of the hardest workers that I know."
Harris totaled 3,070 career yards at Alabama, and registered nine 100-yard performances at the school.
Jacobs led Alabama with 1,315 all-purpose yards in 2018, when he scored 15 touchdowns (11 rushing, three receiving, one kickoff return).
Harris said the backs are appreciative of Henry's influence.
He plans to lean on him moving forward as well.
"Derrick always has been a guy who was there to help us out and help us improve as players and people," Harris said. "And I know I appreciate it."
Titans Online looks back at RB Derrick Henry's 2018 season, in which he rushed for a career-high 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns. (AP Photos)