Michael Conroy
February 25, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Derrick Henry and Kelvin Taylor have spent most of their lives chasing the same dreams.

In high school, it was the pursuit of Emmitt Smith's state rushing record. In college, the goal was SEC stardom.

Now the former rivals turned friends are working out together at the NFL's scouting combine, where they're trying to prove they can thrive at the pro level.

''It's been good catching up with him, talking about football,'' Henry said Wednesday in Indianapolis after the two walked into the interview room at the same time.

There will be plenty of topics for discussion this week.

Henry was rather surprised when he measured in at 6-foot-2 1/2 and 247 pounds, about 5-6 pounds heavier than he expected. That's not good news for a running back with aspirations of going in the first round of the draft.

Taylor, meanwhile, may be asked to explain in the team interviews what he learned from coach Jim McElwain's embarrassing sideline scolding last fall over a celebration.

At least both players know they'll have one empathetic ear around town.

''We're real close,'' Henry said. ''Whenever we get together, we like to talk about football.''

But football has taken their careers down very disparate paths.

While Taylor actually broke Smith's high school record in Florida, Henry wound up smashing a 59-year-old national prep record with 12,144 career yards. Taylor also topped the 12,000-yard mark, but the National Federation of High School Associations doesn't recognize the yardage he amassed from his eighth-grade season when he also played on the varsity team.

Henry also won the only head-to-head prep meeting, 42-6, on a day he outrushed Taylor 362-223.

The dominance continued in college.

After Henry left his home state for powerhouse Alabama, he became the second Heisman Trophy winner in school history, helped the Crimson Tide easily get past Taylor's Gators for another SEC crown in December, then scored three touchdowns in a national championship game victory over Clemson.

Along the way, Henry broke the SEC's single-season rushing record, was voted MVP of the SEC championship game and won the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards.

Now, he must prove the critics wrong one more time.

''You've just got to let it fuel you,'' Henry said.

Taylor's final college season took a very different turn.

With the offense struggling, Florida relied heavily on its junior running back. Just when it appeared he was about to break through, McElwain's tirade was captured on video for the whole world to see.

''Look at me, don't look down,'' McElwain shouted before uttering another sentence with an expletive.

Some thought Taylor's celebration was a tribute to his father, former Florida and Jacksonville Jaguars star Fred Taylor.

Instead, the younger Taylor said he was trying to signal the game was over by gesturing the ''that's the wrap'' gesture - something he now regrets.

''Coach Mac did the right thing, though, because I should have never brought any type of attention to myself. He did the right thing yelling at me and things like that, because he would have done the same thing if it was practice,'' Taylor said. ''It just so happened that all of the media and everything was around, so I felt like a lot of people blowed it out of proportion.''

But growing up around pro football also taught Taylor something else - what it takes to be a star.

For most of his life, Taylor has been pursuing goals. He finally beat his dad in a foot race at age 17, finally caught Smith's record in 2011, and finally became his own man in college.

Now it's up to the two friends to come out to Indianapolis and show what they can do.

''This game is everything I ever dreamed about, and this opportunity is everything I ever dreamed about and more,'' Taylor said. ''I just want to take full advantage of it and embrace the process and have a great time and be the best player I can be.''

Henry couldn't sum it up any better.

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