For 59 years, Ken Hall has lived as more than the most well-known man in Sugarland, Texas. He's also been the most celebrated high school running back in American history. Now, he'll finally have to move aside in the national record book thanks to a Florida running back who burst through his all-time record on a stylish 52-yard run to the end zone on Friday night.
As reported by Rivals.com affiliate Florida Varsity (FlaVarsity.com), the Associated Press and other sources, Yulee (Fla.) High senior running back Derrick Henry broke Hall's national career rushing record on Friday night en route to a 482-yard, six-touchdown performance in a 41-26 playoff win against Perry (Fla.) Taylor County High. Fittingly, Henry broke the all-time mark on an impressive, 52-yard touchdown run on which he slipped through a hole in the line and then took off for daylight.
Henry entered the game 102 yards behind Hall's legendary 11,232-yard, four-year total. By game's end he was up to 11,610 yards, with at least one more game to come -- and likely more -- to pad his newly set record.
"My line did a great job," Henry told Florida Varsity. "Once I saw the crease I hit it. Gave a little stiff-arm and I was off to the races.
"This is our team's record. We worked all summer long for this. We did it -- not me -- we."
Henry's record-setting carry was his 13th of a very long night of work; he would go on to carry the ball a total of 58 times. He had already scored one touchdown, but his record-setting run pushed Yulee back into the lead at 14-7, an edge that Yulee never relinquished.
You can see video of Hall's record-breaking carry via MaxPreps below.
Just about everyone agrees that Henry's record is remarkable -- the Taylor County coach called the Yulee running back "the best athlete I've ever seen" -- and even Hall has finally had to face the fact that another prep athlete would surpass his record yardage, which had long been considered an unreachable equivalent to Roger Maris' 61 home runs in baseball before the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire chase topped that legendary sports mark.
Still, Hall has been magnanimous about Henry's accomplishments, admitting that he was sad to see his nearly six-decade-long record disappear, but happy that the player who was breaking it seemed to be a player of character.
"Seeing someone break the record, yeah you don't want to see it go," Hall told Jacksonville radio station 1010XL, which hosted Henry and fielded a call from Hall on Thursday. "But you'll always have it, and you'll have made a friend."
As for his future, Henry is considered a very firm Alabama commitment, a note which should bring a bright spot to the end of a disappointment week for the Crimson Tide, whose national title hopes were dealt a major blow in a loss to Texas A&M [Editor's note: The Tide are already back in the title picture, as you might already know]. They can now rest assured that not only is the most accomplished running back in history heading their way for the 2013 season, but he's also trying to convince some of the nation's other top athletes to come with him.
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"I want [top-ranked offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil] to come with me [to Alabama]," Henry told Florida Varsity. "[Tunsil] is the number one offensive lineman in the country. I've known him since my sophomore year.
"We keep in touch every day. I'm going to keep on pushing and bring him with me to Tuscaloosa."
Considering the fact that Henry broke Hall's seemingly unreachable record with a fairly traditional high school offensive line, it's terrifying to think of what he could accomplish with the likes of Tunsil and other Alabama linemen. Even if Tunsil doesn't follow Henry, the wealth of riches Henry will be able to run behind could make him the focal point of yet another dominant Alabama rushing attack.
Only time will tell if he can reach similar heights at the next level. For now, Henry knows that he and Yulee still have some important work to do.
"We are not done yet ya'll," Henry told his teammates after their playoff victory. "We are still here!"
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