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Rookie RB Derrick Henry Gives Titans Fans Reason to Smile


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Derrick Henry showed up for the first day of work in May wearing a "Natural Born Baller" t-shirt, and he's hardly broken a smile since.

On Thursday night, after the Titans rookie scored his first career NFL touchdown in the team's 36-22 win over the Jaguars, Henry called it a moment he'll never forget. It was believable, even if his face didn't show it.

"I've seen him smile a couple of times,'' fellow running back DeMarco Murray said of Henry. "Once or twice."

Murray was smiling when he talked about Henry. The veteran appreciates the rookie's no-nonsense approach, even though he admits it's sometimes tough to tell when Henry is in a good mood.

"That's a hard question to answer," Murray said. "I am not a body language expert guy. I (just) think he expects a lot more out of himself and obviously he gets excited when the time comes."

The Titans gave their fans plenty to get excited about on Thursday, and Henry provided another reason to smile. In his most extensive playing time this season, Henry ran for 60 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. On the drive that produced his six-yard touchdown run, the second-round pick totaled five carries for 28 yards.

"That's the expectation for him,'' Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said of Henry. "I think that's what guys believe he can do. I think for him, he really believes that he can do that every single time.  For us, if we can continue to have that from both those guys, him and DeMarco (Murray), we can be a really versatile offense."

Henry, last year's Heisman Trophy winner who ran for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns last season at Alabama, played 32 snaps on offense against the Jaguars, compared to 37 carries for Murray, who ran for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Henry had been used more sparingly in recent weeks. On the season, Henry now has 221 yards on 53 carries, an average of 4.2 yards.

According to Pro Football Focus, 41 of Henry's 60 rushing yards came after contact vs Jaguars. Henry forced 5 total missed tackles.

"It's been impressive," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of Henry. "He does come in there and he's so effective from play one on, which is a good sign. It's just what you want, a one-two punch in the backfield."

Titans tight end Delanie Walker said he likes Henry's attitude, and approach.

"I think Henry is going to be a good back, and we just had to get him out there and get him a few runs so he could get warmed up, which we did," Walker said. "It just showed his performance level is very high, and he understands the game.

"Our GM is very smart and he understood when we got DeMarco and then we got Henry, and that put us in a great position."

Following the team's win over the Jaguars, Henry said he's ready to contribute as much as the team needs him to in the second half of the season.

He gave credit to the offensive line, and those around him while talking about a night "I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Henry wasn't smiling when he said it. But it's safe to say, the Jaguars weren't smiling either.

"Whenever my number is called, I just want to make plays," Henry said. "We just want to play physical and run the ball.

"We want to keep the momentum going from this win. We'll get a couple of days off and then get ready for San Diego next week."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8 action at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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