While the most unbreakable record in sports wasn’t broken Thursday night, it was equaled as Tennessee running back Derrick Henry stiff-armed his way to football immortality with a 99-yard touchdown run against Jacksonville.
The only other 99-yard touchdown run in NFL history belongs to Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, who famously ran into the history books on Monday Night Football when the visiting Cowboys faced Minnesota on Jan. 3, 1983. Technically speaking, Dorsett’s run was 99 yards and 2 feet while Henry’s was almost exactly 99 yards.
A few hours after Henry’s run, Dorsett tweeted:
“Congrats to my @HeismanTrophy brother @KingHenry_2 on tying the 99 yard record tonight. That stiff arm! Rumble, young man, rumble!
On Friday morning, Henry responded:
“Thank you legend.”
Dorsett’s run has ranked among the most memorable plays in league history for 35 years, not only because it came before a national audience when MNF was the highest-watched television program in country, but the Cowboys only had 10 players on the field, adding to the mythology and causing legendary coach Tom Landry to once say of the play, “That shows how much coaching has to do with running.”
For his part, Dorsett has always maintained that the epic gallop wasn’t the best of his career, often citing a 5-yard run vs. St. Louis on Nov. 24, 1983.
“It was just a sweet run,” Dorsett says. “And I made some people miss. I ran in for a touchdown, but it was like it was on this island … and it just looked like I was going to get crushed. But I made it. I don’t know how I did it, but I made a move. I made this linebacker look pretty silly. And I ended up walking into the end zone untouched.”
When Dorsett came off the field following his 99-yard mad dash, among the first people to greet him was then-personnel director and recent Ring of Honor inductee Gil Brandt, who informed him that he just broke the long-standing record of 97 yards by Green Bay’s Andy Uram in 1939.
“I said, ‘Well, Andy Uram’s record just went broken,’” Brandt said.
Dorsett replied with, "Well ..." struggling to catch his breath.
In the meantime, Brandt decided to grab the football, saying it was "One of the smartest things I did ... And I still have the ball."
Dorsett finished his career as the second-leading rusher in NFL history with 12,312 yards, trailing only Walter Payton. He’s also the only running back to currently rank top 10 in NCAA and NFL history for career rushing yards. “Touchdown Tony” was also the first player to win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a Super Bowl. However, above all else, when most football fans hear the name Tony Dorsett, they think of a singular play at the Metrodome the final week of the 1982 regular season.
“A couple of days have passed without me being asked about that run, but definitely not a week,” Dorsett says. “People still remember where they were watching. More than the run itself, that’s because of the platform that was Monday Night Football back then. Everyone was watching.
“I knew we were at the 1-yard line. I remember tightening my chinstrap because Minnesota knew we were going to run and I was preparing myself for a pretty good shot.
“There were two great blocks on the play from Tom Rafferty and Herb Scott, and I was able to make a few cuts, force a couple of missed tackles. Around midfield, Drew Pearson was in front of me, and I noticed his legs were going every which way. I remember thinking he was tired, so it was time to make a final move.”