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Derrick Henry interview: Titans RB talks stiff arm, Arthur Smith and more

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As Derrick Henry was out promoting his partnership with the FedEx Air and Ground program to support the USO Pathfinder Program, he took some time to speak with me about this good cause, stiff arms, Marcus Mariota and why he’s excited about new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

JM: You’re here today working with the FedEx Football Fellowship program that gave civilian work experience to four former service members with the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins. This is obviously an important cause for you. How proud were you that the Titans took part in it?

DH: Yeah, I was super proud. I’m happy to play for such a classy organization and I was thrilled that they took as much passion in this project as I did. We have a good relationship with the support team of our military. I actually have John Williams with me right now. He’s the gentleman the Titans hired as an intern at the end of his 12-week fellowship. I’ve been getting to know him. It’s pretty cool. It was a classy move by our organization.

JM: Yeah, Mr. Williams served in the U.S. Army for 21 years. The Titans hired him at the end of his FedEx Football Fellowship as you mentioned. With you getting to know Mr. Williams, how important is it that you’ve actually been a witness to how this program benefits it’s users?

DH: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Talking to him and getting to know him has been a great experience for me. He actually helped me with my NFL My Cause My Cleats project. He helped me find everything and put that all together. He helped me get the cleats personalized for the game. It was a bit of a struggle and he was a huge help with that. I had the design drawn up for the cleats and he helped put all of that together. Actually talking to him, I just learned that. We were talking in the car on the way over here to Bridgestone Arena and I found that out. FedEx has done a wonderful job putting this together. It’s a great cause and I feel blessed to get to know Mr. Williams.

JM: That’s actually amazing. You’ve primarily run inside zone and gap runs for most of your career dating back to Alabama. Outside zone became the staple for the Titans offense in 2018. Much was made of the Eddie George speech and the perception that your running style changed, but how much of your success down the stretch had to do with yourself and the offensive line getting better at executing the new scheme, outside zone to be specific?

DH: We definitely built more chemistry down the stretch. Game after game, we were all getting better. I thought we got better as a unit every single week. We had to build that chemistry. Like you said, it was a new scheme and we were learning it together. We’re a unit out there. It was a new offense for everybody. We got better and better as the season went on. We wanna carry that momentum into this off-season and continue to improve as a team.

JM: Why are you excited to continue working with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and why do you think he’ll be successful?

DH: I’m super excited to have coach Smith as our offensive coordinator. I’ve been on the team going on four years now and I think he’s going to be a great offensive coordinator for us. I know what his mindset is like. I have a great understanding of what he expects from us. He has an attacking mentality and he wants us to be physical. It’s been fun so far. I’m excited to keep working with him.

JM: Do you have a favorite run call?

DH: I don’t. Not at all. I have to be ready to roll with whatever they call.

JM: I have to ask you this. What’s going through your mind as you get ready to throw that stiff arm?

DH: Make him pay. Get out of my way. Do you see what’s coming at you? (laughs).

JM: That’s my favorite answer ever. Is your now famous 99-yard run against Jacksonville your favorite run thus far in your career?

DH: That’s a tough question. It’s definitely up there. I see it everywhere I go. That was definitely one of my more memorable plays up until this point.

JM: Which Marcus Mariota block was your favorite, the one against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs, or the one against the New York Giants this past season?

DH: That’s a great question. I can tell you which one was harder and louder. It was the Giants block. The Chiefs block was probably the better one because it sealed the game. That was our first playoff win in a long time and it helped us advance to the next round. That was a big moment for us.

JM: But the Giants one was louder? It looked loud.

DH: Oh yeah. I looked over at him like whoa! I lost focus for a second there (laughs).

JM: Much has been made of his weight this off season. Does it look like he’s put on a lot of muscle?

DH: Oh yeah, he’s definitely gotten bigger. We were talking about it the other day. He was telling me about his plan to get bigger. He just wanted to get healthy. I’m excited for him and I’m excited to workout together throughout this off-season. We’re trying to get better. He’s definitely gotten bigger.

JM: In closing Derrick, your training regimen looks quite intense. What have you been working on to improve this off season?

DH: Everything. I’m always working on everything. That’s what the off-season is for. I can always get better. I’m trying to get bigger, stronger, faster and more flexible. I’m working on improving every aspect of my game right now.