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Derrick Henry and the Art of the Stiff Arm – The New York Times

8 min read
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/sports/football/derrick-henry-stiff-arm.html

” You utilize whatever weapons are at your disposal,” stated Bobby Ramsay, who in his time as the coach at Yulee High School in Florida assisted Henry perfect the stiff arm, which was then put to use as Henry set a nationwide high school record of 12,124 backyards hurrying. From a 99-yard run in 2018, to the dominant playoff efficiencies that took Tennessee to the A.F.C. champion video game last season, to his 264-yard efficiency in a Week 6 win over Houston, Henry has made routine usage of a move so old-fashioned that it is celebrated on the Heisman Trophy– which Henry won for Alabama in 2015. He has three.Ramsay, who now coaches at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, described one of Henrys stiff arms as a “social distancing” relocation, where Henry leaves his long arms stretched out in advance of contact, keeping protectors away. Another is the “its time to go to bed, kid” relocation where a protector makes the error of going for Henrys waist, only to have Henry press down on the protectors helmet, like a daddy patting his childs head.For the Norman play, Henry utilized what Ramsay called the “barroom get the heck away from me” move. If there is a gamer who can make things work versus simply about any defense, its Henry.And as his star continues to increase, Henry can count among his admirers someone who happens to be an icon of the Titans franchise from its days as the Houston Oilers, and who thinks Henry does not utilize the stiff arm almost enough.

In an age of immediate emphasize videos on social media, an otherwise forgettable 4-yard run went viral. Derrick Henry, the bruising tailback of the Tennessee Titans, was its star: He drew a 200-pound cornerback in close, grabbed a hold of his shoulder, and merely pushed him to the ground. The entire video clip, from start to complete, took just a few seconds.The truth that the run was negated by balancing out penalties might not have mattered less. King Henry had embarrassed Josh Norman, a previous All-Pro, including him to a collection of popular defenders he had destroyed with the most antique of football moves: the stiff arm.” You use whatever weapons are at your disposal,” said Bobby Ramsay, who in his time as the coach at Yulee High School in Florida helped Henry best the stiff arm, which was then used as Henry set a nationwide high school record of 12,124 yards rushing. “For some people, its the juke, for other guys, its a spin move. Derricks is the ability to utilize his complimentary hand to keep men away.” Normans demise is just among a growing list of highlights for Henry throughout the last 3 seasons. From a 99-yard run in 2018, to the dominant playoff performances that took Tennessee to the A.F.C. national championship last season, to his 264-yard efficiency in a Week 6 win over Houston, Henry has actually made routine usage of a move so old-fashioned that it is commemorated on the Heisman Trophy– which Henry won for Alabama in 2015. The scary thing is, Henry doesnt just have one stiff-arm technique. He has three.Ramsay, who now coaches at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, explained among Henrys stiff arms as a “social distancing” move, where Henry leaves his long arms stretched out in advance of contact, keeping protectors away. Another is the “its time to go to bed, child” move where a protector makes the mistake of choosing Henrys waist, just to have Henry lower on the defenders helmet, like a dad patting his kids head.For the Norman play, Henry utilized what Ramsay called the “barroom get the heck away from me” move. Its a variation of the stiff arm booked for when a defender is already in distance, and it is not nearly as easy as Henry makes it look.Ryan Tannehill, the Titans quarterback, saw the play unfold from just a couple of yards away, which prompted him to utilize some salted language on the field. He admired Henrys strength even after his groups 42-16 win over Buffalo.” That was most likely one of the meanest stiff arms Ive ever seen,” he said. “No doubt.” Henry discarded the attention as quickly as he dispatched Norman.” Ive been doing a lot of curls,” he said with a smile. “Ive got ta lay off the arms.” Jokes aside, the stiff arm, which dates to footballs earliest days, has sustained, with Jim Brown paving the way to Walter Payton therefore many others. Gamers like Garrison Hearst and Marshawn Lynch have bowled their method onto stiff-arm emphasize videos that chew up click YouTube.While Henrys bruising style is not especially stylish in todays N.F.L., the stiff arm can be practically a cheat code for gamers who ideal it. The leagues rules enable a runner to press a protectors helmet without being called for a face-mask penalty, supplied the contact is considered incidental.The most popular example of the relocation is most likely Ed Smiths present on the prize that bears John Heismans name, but couple of stiff arms in the N.F.L. can match the stakes, and the reward, of the one thrown by John Riggins in the Super Bowl that followed the 1982 season.With Washington behind by 17-13 in the fourth quarter, Riggins, on 4th-and-1, broke around the left side and used his ideal arm to shed Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal. He then charged 43 yards into completion zone for the go-ahead touchdown.Riggins stated he did not practice the stiff arm or establish any unique methods for it. “Basically, whatever I did was instinctual,” he said in a telephone interview. “If someone was attempting to grab you, you try to fend them off.” On his popular Super Bowl run, Riggins credits his colleagues and a little luck. Prior to the breeze, tight end Clint Didier entered motion to the right, then headed back to the delegated block for Riggins. When he reversed course, McNeal followed Didier in both directions but slipped.” Thats what kept him a hundredth of a second away from getting a bigger piece of me,” Riggins stated. “It would have been shame on me if I didnt break that tackle.” Whether its Riggins or Henry, a great stiff arm can make a gamer stand out in any period. But with teams working so tough to emphasize the passing game, and with smaller sized more flexible running backs in style, Henry, who welcomes his size instead of trying to adjust to the design of smaller runners, has ended up being the supreme throwback. Standing 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 247 pounds, he is the largest starting running back in the N.F.L. Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, who likewise went into the league in 2016, is 3 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. The Kansas City Chiefs novice Clyde Edwards-Helaire is noted at simply 5 feet 7 inches and weighs 207 pounds.In addition to his uncommon height, Henry has long arms. Measured at 33 inches prior to the N.F.L. draft in 2016, he has a longer reach than all however three draft-eligible running backs determined in the last 5 seasons.That size was not always seen as a benefit. Ramsay said many employers dismissed Henrys obvious talents in high school due to the fact that they felt he was too big, or “ran high” in football parlance. They were all trying to find running backs with a lower center of gravity.But Henry is very quick for his size– he ran 4.54 in the 40-yard dash– and utilizes his height and strength to break tackles and enter the defensive backfield. He averaged 5.1 lawns a carry in 2015, when he ran for a league-leading 1,540 backyards and 16 touchdowns. This year, he is balancing 4.8 backyards a bring, but is also carrying on more– 24.6 times a game, up from 20.2 times a video game last season.Henry can efficiently stiff-arm an opponent with either arm– yet another thing that sets him apart– and any opponent who decides to go after his legs wont discover that a lot easier.” You hear individuals state, protectors must just go low,” said Dave Anderson, a former N.F.L. broad receiver and the primary executive of BreakAway Data, a professional athlete development company. “The problem is protectors cant really do that when they are running full speed on an angle, in the running backs vision and are exceeded by 50 pounds. All of those actually tinker a protectors timing.” Anderson corresponded trying to time a tackle on a gamer of Henrys size and speed to “trying to leap in a car going 20 miles per hour.” None of this is brand-new for Henry, who has actually utilized his weight, leverage and height to great result since a minimum of the ninth grade. Ramsay recognized that Henry, who was over six feet high in high school, was not a slashing runner like Barry Sanders. Reducing his shoulder into a shorter defenders chest would have slowed him down since of his height advantage. Ramsay let Henry break takes on with his bulk and use his speed to run away from pursuers.” Ive been doing it since I was a kid, because Ive been playing football, and it just came natural to me due to the fact that I have long arms,” Henry said in September. “So thats the very first thing I utilize to break a take on or escape the protector.” In the video game in which he set the national high school rushing record, Henry carried the ball 58 times for 482 lawns and 6 touchdowns. That efficiency was normal of a senior year in which he scored 55 touchdowns, even as some defenses put as many as 10 gamers on the line of scrimmage. “There wasnt any secret what we were trying to do,” Ramsay said.There still isnt. While Tannehill has shown a capability to extend the field with the passing game, Tennessee runs its offense through Henry. And no matter just how much teams try to adjust, Henry seems to discover methods to make it work. Henry will have that supremacy tested on Sunday, when his 5-0 Titans face the 5-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, a group that features the most efficient run defense in the N.F.L. But if there is a player who can make things work against just about any defense, its Henry.And as his star continues to increase, Henry can count among his admirers somebody who happens to be an icon of the Titans franchise from its days as the Houston Oilers, and who thinks Henry doesnt use the stiff arm nearly enough.” How in the hell you do not utilize that stiff-arm more?” Earl Campbell asked Henry during a check out with the group last year. “Put that bone on them. Let them know you got it.”

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