NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry hasn't forgotten where he came from.
During Thanksgiving Week, the Titans running back has provided yet another example of his desire to lift the spirits of others with a good deed for a high school junior in his hometown of Yulee, Florida.
Henry recently ran across the story of 16-year-old Sammy Macaulay, who was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer last October.
Since her diagnosis, Macaulay has gone through 14 rounds of chemotherapy, and 36 rounds of radiation for a tumor that formed on her pelvic bone. A Jacksonville television station did a story on a fundraiser on the softball player, called "Strike Out for Sammy", during her cancer fight.
It prompted Henry to reach out to the 16-year-old Macaulay. He was able to get her contact information, and he first sent her a video, encouraging her.
"It was so nice to see the smile that brought to her face," said Kellie Macauley, Sammy's mom.
Henry, a prep star at Yulee High before playing at the University of Alabama, didn't stop there. He wanted to do more, and the second part comes this weekend when the Titans face the Carolina Panthers at Nissan Stadium.
Henry has invited Sammy, along with her mom, dad and sister, to Nashville for Sunday's game. He's paying for their airfare and lodging, along with their tickets. The family will get sideline passes for the game, and they'll get a chance to meet Henry in pregame.
"For somebody who grew up in the same hometown, who left and became such a beast," Sammy Macaulay said of Henry, "for him to reach out to me when I'm going through a hard time, to try to lift up my spirits, it means a lot.
"Our whole school is Derrick Henry. Everything is Derrick Henry around here."
Henry said it will bring him joy to meet Macaulay.
"I saw her story, and I was inspired by it," Henry said. "I just wanted to shed any light on her situation in any way possible. I'm glad I was able to get in touch with her to get something worked out.
"Somebody that is going through that and living life to the fullest. Her courage, fighting, I just think it is something special. I want to let her know I am praying for her, thinking about her, and I'm looking forward to meeting her."
Kellie Macauley said her daughter's attitude has been great during the past year, through the treatments, her hair loss, and the uncertainty.
The family is thankful for all the support it has received, from fundraisers to friends helping out in the community. Sammy's most recent tests have given the family optimism – she had her last round of chemotherapy in July, and scans taken during two follow-up visits have been clean.
Maccauley is now dealing with a fracture in her back, which presumably happened when she returned to sports too quickly.
"She's had her up and down days, but her attitude has been great," Kellie said of her daughter. "She's definitely my hero, that's for sure. … And all the amazing support she has received, including Derrick, it's been great."
With a smile, Sammy admits she's grown up a Jaguars fan, which is understandable, considering Yulee is located just 24 miles north of Jacksonville. Her parents are originally from Knoxville, and Tennessee Vols fans, so Henry has always played on the rival team in their minds.
"I'll always cheer for Derrick Henry," Sammy said.
Henry is hoping he can convince her to change her AFC South allegiances when the two meet on Sunday.
"Hopefully we put on a good show for her, and she switches to the two-tone blue," Henry said with a smile. "But hopefully she has great memories, and it will give her something she can remember me by.
"I want to be a blessing any way I can."