ORLANDO – Derrick Henry is surrounded by the NFL's best players here at the Pro Bowl, and everywhere he turns someone new is approaching him.
All of them, from Ravens to Texans to Steelers to Colts, are congratulating the Titans running back, praising him for his outstanding season, and his first trip to the league's all-star game.
Most of them also have a question.
"They ask me how my body feels," Henry said laughing. "They're complimenting me on the season I had, the season the team had, but they also kid me about how much I carried the ball this year. They say, 'Man, you must be beat up. How's your body? You sure got the ball a lot.'
"I tell them I feel fine, I feel good. I wish I was still going actually."
Henry is still going, only the pace in practices leading up Sunday's Pro Bowl is a lot different compared to what Henry might be going through had the Titans won at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Even in the land of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Henry still has his mind on what could have been - the stuff of which fairy tales are made of.
"It is cool being here, being with all the superstars and being able to spend time with guys you played against. Being able to relax, chill, and have a good time, it's awesome," Henry said.
"But I want to win a Super Bowl. Getting so close, it makes you hungrier. It's something I will keep in the back of my mind. I will let it fuel me all offseason, fuel us, and it's something we'll keep working towards."
A look back at RB Derrick Henry's 2019 Pro Bowl season that saw him rush 303 times for an NFL-leading 1,540 yards (5.1-yard avg.) and 16 touchdowns. (Photos: Donald Page)
The bruising back from the University of Alabama had a heck of a year in 2019.
Henry was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, and he was selected to his first career Pro Bowl, after leading the NFL with a career-best 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries. Henry ranked third in NFL with 18 total touchdowns, and he ranked second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,746 yards from scrimmage.
Henry was a real workhorse in the postseason, setting a franchise playoff record with 182 rushing yards at New England (1/4/20) before resetting it with 195 rushing yards at Baltimore (1/11/20). Henry gained 69 yards on 19 carries in the AFC title game loss at Kansas City.
On Monday in Nashville, Henry strolled through the locker room on clean-out day, saying goodbyes to every player on the team.
On Thursday after Pro Bowl practice, he explained why.
"It was a special year for us, and every guy on that team means a lot to me," Henry said. "I don't think anybody anticipated us making it that far, and we all had to believe in each other. We came into work every day and competed to make each other better. We played together. I love those guys. We all worked so hard together to reach one common goal, and we gave it everything we had together. I hate that it ended the way that it did, but I cherish the moments we had."
This week, Henry is not only surrounded by the game's elite players, he's also using the Pro Bowl trip as a family celebration.
His girlfriend traveled with him to Orlando, and other family members are starting to arrive in town as well. By week's end, Henry's mom, dad and his siblings, along with his aunts and uncles and other family friends will be in town for the game. Most of Henry's family lives up the road in Yulee, Fla., just outside of Jacksonville.
"It's probably going to be pretty packed with family," Henry said. "It being so close, they don't have to travel too far. When they come to Nashville, they have to drive nine hours, and this is just three hours away. So it is good to have them here."
Henry said he plans to enjoy the week.
He's been a popular player among fans, and he's walked the fence line before and after the first two days of practices signing autographs and taking pictures for fans, many of them outfitted in Titans gear.
While the Pro Bowl trip has been a nice reward, it's also been a distraction for Henry and the rest of the Titans, including Ryan Tannehill, Jurrell Casey and Brett Kern, since they'd otherwise be thinking about coming so close to being further down the road, in Miami, for Super Bowl LIV.
Henry, whose contract expires in March, said he hopes to be back with the Titans to try and get to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2020 season.
"In a perfect world, I wish everybody could come back, and we could make another run at it and end on the right note," Henry said. "I am definitely hungry, not only to get better myself, but to win a Super Bowl.
"My goal every year is I always want to be better than the year before. So that's what I'll be striving for heading into next season. I want to do everything I can do to help the team win a Super Bowl."
Titans players arrive for week-long practices and festivities leading up to Sunday's Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Photos: Donald Page)