Derrick Henry named Alabama Pro Athlete of the Year
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and former Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown headlined the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s annual athletes of the year awards, which were announced Sunday afternoon.
Henry was named the Pro Athlete of the Year, with Brown the Amateur Athlete of the Year in balloting by the organization’s membership for the 2019-20 seasons.
Football player Robert Shufford of Division III Birmingham Southern was tabbed the Small College Athlete of the Year, and basketball’s Imari Martin of Wallace State-Hanceville the Community College Athlete of the Year.
“It’s an honor to be named the Alabama Pro Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association,” Henry said in a recorded video acceptance from training camp with the Tennessee Titans. “The time I spent playing football for Coach Saban and the Crimson Tide were some of the best of my life, and I will always cherish my teammates, coaches and the fans who made my career at Alabama so memorable.”
Henry led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,540 yards. His 18 touchdowns were third in the league, while his 1,746 yards from scrimmage were fourth.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press, and to his first Pro Bowl. While helping lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game, Henry had 83 attempts for 446 yards and two touchdowns in three playoff games.
Henry was named the NFL’s FedEx Ground Player of the Year, and this past week his peers voted him the 10th best player in the league in the annual NFL 100.
After registering 55 tackles as a senior, including a team-leading 12.5 for loss, with four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, Brown was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
The senior defensive lineman was also a consensus first team All-American, and the 2019 recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Senior CLASS Award. The finalist for the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik trophies finished his Auburn career with 170 tackles and 33.5 tackles for loss.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be able to receive this amazing recognition, especially knowing the number of phenomenal athletes who have played in this state,” Brown said in a statement through the school. “It’s special to see my work at Auburn come full circle, and of course, I am thankful to my teammates and coaches and to the Auburn family, whose support has been terrific.
“Thanks again for honoring me among such amazing athletes.”
As a junior running back, Shufford became only the second Panther in program history to be a unanimous All-American. A finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, as the top Division III football student-athlete, he led the nation in all-purpose yards and rushing yards per game, and set the Southern Athletic Association single-season record in rushing yards at 1,834.
While having four 200-yard games including 282 at Centre College, Shufford set program single-season records for rushing attempts, yards per game, total offense per play, all-purpose yards per game, and scoring.
“What a great honor for not only him but also our program and institution,” Birmingham Southern coach Tony Joe White said. “Robert is not only a tremendous football player, but he is a first class young man who is extremely humble and selfless. He is very deserving of this honor and will represent well all that this award embodies.”
Martin led Wallace State-Hanceville to a 24-6 record and to the program’s first NJCAA Division I national championship appearance since 2015. With 1,086 career points, the guard became the first Lady Lion to top the 1,000 milestone in 14 years.
She averaged 21.8 points per game and totaled 147 assists and 81 3-pointers, en route to topping the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) in scoring and assists.
“Imari is a true competitor,” Wallace State-Hanceville coach Jessica McBrayer said. “Not only did she elevate her own game this season, she elevated our team and program as well.
“Imari is the type of player every coach wants to coach. A fierce competitor who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. She will forever hold a special place to me as a coach and a special place within this program.”
Martin was named the Alabama Community College Conference Player of the Year and an NJCAA first team All-American.
“This award means so much to me and I am so honored to receive it,” Martin said. “[It’s] because of all my coaches and teammates, I was able to be chosen for this award. Receiving this award acknowledges that hard work definitely pays off, following my heart actually works, and doing what I love and am so passionate about played a major role in receiving this honor.”
The 2020 ASWA convention and awards banquet was initially scheduled for mid-June, only to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead the awards were announced during a special luncheon held at the Alabama High School Athletic Association.