TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Derrick Henry spent much of Alabama's pro day as a spectator, even breaking out his phone to time teammates on at least one drill.
At the end, the Crimson Tide's Heisman Trophy-winning tailback took on another unfamiliar role: Lining up wide to run routes downfield and catch balls from quarterback Jake Coker. With dozens of NFL scouts, executives and coaches watching, the 6-foot-3, 243-pounder aimed to show he's more than a between-the-tackles running back.
Henry is hoping his NFL combine numbers, his college credentials and linebacker-like measurements land him in the first round of next month's draft.
Tide coach Nick Saban believes Henry has plenty of skills to thrive in the NFL, and rattles them off.
"I think when you look at Derrick Henry you have to get past the style points and style issue," Saban said. "He's a unique guy with a unique style. He's got great length, he's got a great stiff arm, he's really hard to tackle, and he's really, really fast.
"He can catch the ball. He's a really good receiver. And he can block. So if you don't have this sort of pigeon-hole perception of what a running back needs to be, and you can get past all that and just look at the production, you'll be wise in terms of how you look at Derrick Henry and what his performance will be for you down the road."
Henry's already proven he can run, rushing for an SEC record 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior before deciding to turn pro. He streaked downfield several times to pull in deep balls from Coker.
"I just wanted to catch the ball," Henry said. He had 11 catches for 91 yards last season.
Asked if he needs a certain scheme to succeed in the NFL, Henry said: "All I need is a line, and I'm good."
Wednesday was mostly about showing off his routes and hands. He did that in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams, including New England coach Bill Belichick and Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, along with general managers Doug Whaley (Buffalo) and Ryan Grigson (Colts).
Henry was not the only top prospect for the defending national champions to draw the attention of the NFL executives in attendance.
Others like linebacker Reggie Ragland, defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed mainly did position drills while teammates among the 19 draft-eligible players got a chance to showcase their skills — and 40 times.
Ragland, Reed, Robinson and Henry are all projected as possible first-round picks. Some highlights and reaction from pro day:
—Ragland did some drills and also said he bench-pressed 225 pounds 13 times. The 247-pounder is cooking his own healthy meals leading up to the draft trying to maintain his weight and fitness. The meals include baked chicken and fish and "a lot of asparagus and broccoli and carrots and that type of stuff."
—Reed and Robinson are two of the top players among a deep group of interior defensive linemen in this draft. Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, a former Tide star, was on hand to watch. The current tackle prospects already made an impression on NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.
"I love them. They're both in my top five," Mayock said. "It's the best interior line class I've ever seen, and both of those kids are going to play early and often and play for 10 years."
—Coker didn't get a combine invite despite leading Alabama to the national title in his lone season as starter, and was clearly miffed at the time.
"Oh man, I don't want to get started on that," said Coker, who did play in the Senior Bowl. "It's all good, man. It (ticked) me off, but hey, it didn't change my work ethic or the way I've been working. Hey, it is what it is."