The Rams will enter the 2020 season with two of Mississippi’s most decorated high school football players in their backfield.
Before starring at Memphis, Darrell Henderson was the 2014 Mississippi Gatorade Football Player of the Year, Best of MS Preps Player of the Year and Parade magazine All-America honorable mention pick who rushed for 5,801 career yards – eighth-most in state high school football history – while at Batesville (Miss.) South Panola.
Prior to arriving at Florida State, Akers was a five-star recruit and consensus national top-10 prospect who passed for 8,140 yards and 78 touchdowns, while rushing for 5,103 yards and 71 scores during his time at Clinton (Miss.) High. Like Henderson, Akers won the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award two years later as well as its Mr. Football award.
They faced off once on the preps gridiron, when Batesville played Clinton in the second round of the state’s 2014 Class 6A championship.
Henderson’s 23 carries for 147 yards and one touchdown propelled second-ranked Batesville to a 9-7 win over fifth-ranked Clinton that night, with Batesville eventually winning the state championship that year. Akers put up a valiant effort in that second-round contest, though, taking his Arrows all the way down to the Tigers’ 13-yard line before a one-handed interception in the endzone by Batesville defensive back Turner Rotenberry sealed the win with 4:50 left.
“He’s always been a tough player,” Henderson said during a video conference last month. “When I played him in high school, he was a quarterback. Now that he’s playing running back, he runs hard.”
The respect remains mutual.
“I definitely saw a lot of him, just growing up in general and in high school,” Akers said after he got drafted by the Rams. “I definitely, definitely know who Darrell Henderson is and how he likes to run.”
The two had similar high school paths.
Henderson finished that 2014 season – his senior year – with 2,253 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns, while Akers compiled 2,596 total yards and 37 touchdowns as a sophomore. Though the 2014 season ended in disappointment for Akers, he would lead Clinton’s football program to its first ever state championship two years later.