Royalty recognized royalty Sunday.
Not long after running back Derrick Henry delivered the Tennessee Titans a 30-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens with a 29-yard touchdown run in overtime, NBA legend LeBron James, a.k.a. “King James” saluted him via Twitter, where Henry uses the handle @KingHenry_2.
“The finisher,” James wrote. He included the hashtag “Beast.”
It was Henry’s ninth touchdown run of the season – his second in overtime – and the 50th touchdown of his career. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama has scored 47 times on running plays and three on receptions in 72 regular-season contests.
“I never met him,” Henry said following the contest of James’ social media recognition. “I’ve seen him at the ESPYs, one time I saw him with Kobe [Bryant]. I was in awe, of course, like anybody else would be. But I just tweeted back at him. You know, he does that with everybody in all of sports.”
His reply began with his assessment that James is the “real one.”
For his part, Henry proved once again that he is the real thing when it comes to NFL running backs. His game-ending run capped an afternoon in which he rushed for 133 yards on 28 carries and surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the third straight season.
With six games remaining, he has 1,079 and is on pace to surpass his league-leading and career-high 1,540 yards from last season. He has rushed for 100 yards or more six times, including three of the last four games.
“Just looking at (the Ravens’) body language on their sideline and also on the field, I felt like we were going to be able to break through there,” coach Mike Vrabel said of the touchdown run. “I didn’t know it was going to look like that … but everybody stayed on their guy and finished. And Derrick was able to cut back.
“… You could just kind of tell, I think, as that game wore on into the fourth quarter that we were wearing on them.”
In the first two quarters, Henry ran for 37 yards on 13 carries. His longest gain was eight yards. In the third, he managed just seven yards on five carries. Then came 52 yards on seven attempts in the fourth, including runs of 11 and 24 yards in a span of four plays.
His final rush, which was the Titans’ second longest play of the afternoon, followed a pair of 4-yard gains earlier in the possession.
And, it earned him a nod from one of the biggest names in sports.
“He’s a world-class athlete,” Henry said of James. “Everybody looks up to him. He’s great in the community. Great in everything he does. So, I appreciate him shouting me out.”