By David Ubben

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Down and distance? Who cares?

Not Derrick Henry. This is life as a 6-foot-3, 242-pound man who possesses 4.5 speed. 

A few hours earlier, he created a hole where a mass of blockers and tacklers once was on fourth-and-one and, 37 yards later, gave No. 3 Alabama a lead it never gave up in a dominant 35-17 win over No. 20 Wisconsin. 

"Shoot, I didn't even know it was fourth down," Henry said, a sparkling gold watch strapped to his left wrist. "I didn't know [what down it was]. I didn't care. We got a touchdown and I was happy." 

Football is far less complex than some make it. 

So, too, is the race for the Heisman Trophy. Nick Chubb? Leonard Fournette? The biggest reason that Henry was behind his in-conference competition at running back might have vanished on Alabama's first offensive series. Don't expect him to share too many touches with the flashier Kenyan Drake. 

Henry carried the ball on Alabama's first four plays, taking a little pressure off first-time starting quarterback Jacob Coker.

"That was kind of the plan, not to put a lot on the quarterback," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Put it on Henry. He can handle it, and tackling him is about like tackling a phone booth filled with cement. Except the phone booth is moving very fast and would very much like to run you over. 

"He's unbelievable, a physical specimen," defensive back Cyrus Jones said. "I wouldn't want to tackle that guy." 

Wisconsin didn't want to, either. The Badgers gave up 3.58 yards per carry to ball carriers last season. Henry averaged 11.3 on his 13 touches for 147 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday night. 

Drake, who was supposed to crowd the backfield this season, earned 10, but Henry got only three carries after breaking loose for a 56-yard touchdown on Alabama's first drive of the second half, giving the Crimson Tide a 21-7 lead that felt like 210-7 for much of the third and fourth quarters for a Badgers offense searching for explosive plays. 

Henry scored on one of those carries, giving Alabama a 28-7 lead with 5:17 left in the third quarter. His night was done early, even against a top-20 opponent. 

"To be as big as he is and have that kind of exceptional speed and strength," offensive lineman Cam Robinson said. "It's extremely rare."

Defensive end Jonathan Allen, a fellow junior who had two sacks in Saturday's win, has tried to tackle Henry plenty of times since the two came to Tuscaloosa in the same recruiting class. 

"It's difficult," Allen said. "You have to wrap up. He's a thumper."

Creating his own holes with his size and strength is nothing new. 

"I expect to see him do that," Allen said. "He does that countless times in practice. To see it in a game is just a carryover from that. He's tremendous. He has a high expectation for himself he tries to uphold, and he's one of the hardest workers, day in and day out, I've been around." 

Henry was a seldom-used third piece of a loaded backfield in 2013 as a freshman. Last season, he took a backseat to T.J. Yeldon but still created weekly highlight reels. This year, he's doing it again, and with no one ahead of him in the pecking order, his play will demand a heavier load. That could mean some hardware come December. 

"I'm ready for whatever. If they want to give me the ball as many times as they want to, I'm prepared for it," Henry said. 

Did America's preseason Heisman conversation overlook one of the stars of Week 1? 

"Definitely," Allen said. 

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David Ubben is a contributor to Sports on Earth. Before joining SoE, he covered college sports for and Fox Sports Southwest. He lives in Dallas with his wife and their golden retriever. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter