A Tennessee homecoming for Bills RB Travis Henry   printer  

After a stellar career at the University of Tennessee, Bills RB Travis Henry is looking forward to playing in Nashville Saturday night.

After a stellar career at the University of Tennessee, Bills RB Travis Henry is looking forward to playing in Nashville Saturday night.

By Craig TerBlanche
Titans Online

NASHVILLE, TN Aug. 13, 2003 -- The Tennessee Volunteers have always had a rich tradition of running backs in the NFL and this Saturday, Bills RB Travis Henry looks to continue that trend.

Henry and the Bills are headed to Nashville to take on the Titans in their second preseason game. Both teams were victorious last week as the Bills defeated the Ravens 20-19 and the Titans downed the Browns 10-6.

Henry is one of seven Volunteer running backs playing in the NFL, a list that includes Jamal Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and Charlie Garner of the Oakland Raiders.

Titans DT Albert Haynesworth and S Steven Marsh are also former Volunteers. Both played on the 1998 National Championship team with Henry.

He is just a hard-nosed player and goes hard every play, Marsh said. You will have to be ready when he comes down here. He is hard runner, I know from college experience. Being able to tackle him got me ready for some of the other backs in the league.

Other than Henry, the Titans tandem practiced against Jamal Lewis (Ravens), Travis Stephens (Buccaneers) and Onterrio Smith (Vikings) while they attended Tennessee.

We faced a number of big time backs when I was there, Haynesworth said. Jamal started, but when we needed some yards, they put Travis in. Everyone knew he was a great back.

For Marsh and Haynesworth, having a great backfield to practice against was a big advantage, but on the flip side of the coin, a stable full of horses meant you had to wait your turn.

Henry waited around until his junior season when Lewis was sidelined with a knee injury. He took advantage of the opportunity and ran straight into the UT record books. He is Tennessees all-time leading rusher with 3,078 yards, has the most career attempts with 556 and holds the Vols career record for most 100-yard games (15).

Why is the talent pool so deep in Big Orange Country? Titans running backs coach Sherman Smith thinks it has something to do with the offensive scheme.

I dont know if there is a specific reason except that they attract a number of high caliber running backs from high school, Smith said. They have an outstanding offensive scheme and guys just flourish from that system when they go to the NFL.

Flourish indeed, Henry is coming off a 1,438-yard season and his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He became the first Bills running back to make the trip to Honolulu since Thurman Thomas in 1993. Henry also added 13 touchdowns and six 100-yard games.

After a season like that, a player might think he has gained a little job security. That was not the case for Henry when the Bills decided to use their first-round draft pick on Miami RB, Willis McGahee.

McGahee was taken 23rd overall, and agreed to a five-year deal on Tuesday with the Bills. His playing status remains uncertain as he continues to recover from an injury suffered in Miami's national championship game loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The damage included at least partial tears to three of four ligaments in his left knee.

But even with McGahee eventually challenging for the starting job, some believe Henrys future is still promising.

It was surprising because they have Travis, but thats no knock on him, four-time Pro Bowler Eddie George said about the Bills decision to draft McGahee. His future is going to be fine. All he has to do is stay focused and keep working hard.

Determination, focus and hard work - all the things Henry needs to keep the Volunteer tradition alive.