Derrick Henry grew up in the small town of Yulee, Florida which has a population of a little more than 28,000, per Fernandina Observer. Yulee was listed as an even smaller city of about 11,491 people when Derrick was in college at Alabama, per USA Today.
Derrick had a number of people that helped raise him as his grandmother, Gladys Henry, became the primary caretaker of the running back. Henry’s dad, Derrick Henry Sr., was arrested 20 times on various charges when the running back was growing up as USA Today detailed.
Over the years, Big D had trouble maintaining a job and trouble with the law. His was first arrested and charged when Henry was 20 months old for possession of cocaine. In all, Big D has been arrested 20 times for charges such as of sale or delivery of a controlled substance, soliciting for prostitution, hit and run and driving under the influence, and has been in and out of prison, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
Derrick Sr. noted to USA Today that he wanted a different life for his son.
“I want my kid to have more than what I have,” Derrick Sr. told USA Today.
Derrick’s mom, Stacy Veal, was just 15 years old when she had her son, while his father was 16 at the time of his birth, per USA Today.
Prior to Her Death, Derrick Henry’s Grandma Was Unable to Attend the Heisman Trophy Ceremony Due to Health Complications
All this is why it was significant when Derrick’s grandmother’s health continued to deteriorate and prevented her from attending the Heisman Trophy ceremony when her grandson won the award in 2015. Gladys still watched Derrick win the award on television from her hospital bed in Jacksonville, Florida.
She would die less than a year later on September 13, 2016, per AL.com. Derrick wrote a heartfelt letter about his grandmother for The Players’ Tribune upon going back to Alabama to receive his diploma.
I guess I just want you to know that I love you and I miss you, and I’m doing all the right things. I’m keeping God first, like you always told me to. I’m working hard every day. I’m being respectful to my elders. I’m doing my lessons, Grandma — I promise I am. And when I walk across that stage in Tuscaloosa today and get my degree, I know I won’t be walking alone. You’ll be right there with me, the same way you are every day, inside my heart. I can feel your spirit. I can hear you singing.
The Titans Running Back Moved in With His High School Coach
Derrick would later split time with a couple of his aunts before finding a home with his high school coach, J.T. Medley, during his sophomore year. Medley noted that Henry has been goal-oriented for quite some time.
“His exact words were, ‘My goal before I leave college is to win the Heisman,'” Medley explained, per Ledger-Enquirer. “I was shocked at first. I was looking at him kind of in awe of a 10th grade kid talking about winning the Heisman in college.”
Stacy emphasized that it was a family effort to raise Derrick, and the running back is making them proud. The whole town of Yulee has something to cheer for anytime the Titans are playing on Sundays.
“We’ve all pitched in to raise him,” Stacy noted to USA Today.