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This item appeared in The Times & Free Press on Sunday, January 2, 2000.

[Times & Free Press: Humble, Hungry Henry Waits His Turn]

Humble, Hungry Henry Waits His Turn

Assistant Sports Editor

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The stage was set Thursday morning for the media to meet Tennessee's 1999 football teams.

While most of the team was in the stands, separate podiums along the sideline were assembled for head coach Phillip Fulmer and the Tennessee stars -- quarterback Tee Martin, linebacker Raynoch Thompson, cornerback Dwayne Goodrich and running back Jamal Lewis.

Travis Henry was once again an also ran, though Fulmer had made it clear earlier in the week that Henry, not Lewis, would start for the Vols at tailback.

"I don't know what's up with that, but I don't mind," said Henry as he watched the on-field proceedings from afar.

"Jamal and I don't deal too much with who's starting. We talk about when we get into the game how we're going to rip it up. As far as who's starting, we do that kind of talking on the field. When we're off, it's different," said Henry, who closed out the '99 season by rushing for 158 yards in little more than a half.

Though they play the same position, there is harmony between the two running backs. "We hang every day and have every day we've been here. It's that way most days back home, too," said the 5-foot-9, 230-pound Henry. "I'm not the jealous type. I'm just happy for the next man when he gets ahead," said Henry. "I'm just trying to get there just like Jamal got there. I'm try to get to his status.

"When he was going good, I used to go home and talk high-level about him and the folks back there were telling me I shouldn't be talking like that. But that's the way I am; when applause is due, I'm gonna give it."

In practice, Lewis has looked especially sharp, hitting holes with authority, displaying that 1997 spring in his step that had most predicting him for greatness both at Tennessee and in the NFL. It may be the latter -- running to the NFL -- that has motivated him most, but he looks more like the old Jamal now that at anytime since the knee injury midway through '98.

"He has . . . he has been running really well," said Henry.

"We were very surprised to learn that Travis Henry would be starting," said Nebraska defender Ralph Brown. "When we played against Jamal Lewis two years ago, we thought he was the best running back we had played the whole season. If Henry's starting in front of him, I can't imagine how good Henry must be."

For all his rock-hard physique and his "caution to the wind" attitude, Henry is human. He likes hearing the kind words, but he isn't starving for them.

"Ego? Naw, man, that ain't me. I ain't like that. I've always been, well, my momma says I'm free-hearted. I'm down to earth and I can't see me being no other way. That's for real," said Henry.

In high school, he was named Florida's "Mr. Football" after running (in his senior season alone) for 4,087 yards and 42 touchdowns.

The Bible says the meek shall inherit the earth and Henry's mom made sure he learned his scripture.

"In high school, my philosophy was to stay humble and hungry. That's the way I want to stay . . . humble and hungry."

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