Thomas Henderson (American Football)
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Thomas Henderson American Football
Thomas Henderson
refer to caption
Henderson signs autographs in Houston in January 2014.
No. 56, 50, 53
Personal information
Born: (1953-03-01) March 1, 1953 (age 68)
Austin, Texas
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:221 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school:Oklahoma City (OK) Douglass
NFL Draft:1975 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:75
Player stats at · PFR

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson (born March 1, 1953) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Oilers, and Miami Dolphins. He played college football at Langston University.

Early years

Henderson was raised by his teenage mother on the east side of Austin, Texas and played football for the L. C. Anderson High School "B" team until his sophomore year (1969), when he moved to Oklahoma City to live with his grandmother and find a more stable environment.

Although as a senior he earned All-City honors playing defensive end at Douglass High School, he was not recruited by colleges because his career had been shortened, after having to sit out his junior year after transferring. After graduation Henderson joined the Air Force, but quit before being sworn in.

College career

Henderson was a walk-on for the football team at the NAIA Langston University. His personality earned him the nickname "Wild Man" and helped him become a two-time small-college All-America defensive end.[1]

As a senior, he contributed to the team's 11-1 record and a playoff appearance. He was named Southwest district Defensive Player of the Year. He started 45 straight games in his college career. He also practiced track and field, competing in the 100 metres (9.5 seconds)[] and the triple jump (49 feet).

In 2002, he was inducted into the Langston University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2018, he was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.[2]

Professional career

Dallas Cowboys

Henderson was selected in the first round (18th overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft, as part of the Dallas Cowboys Dirty Dozen draft. As a rookie, he focused on special teams. He returned a reverse handoff for a 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown (fourth in franchise history) during the second game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He blocked a punt in the fourteenth game against the New York Jets.

In 1976, he competed with D.D. Lewis for the starting strongside linebacker position. He remained as a backup and core special teams player. He blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety in the twelfth game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1977, he was named the starting strongside linebacker over Randy White, who was moved to defensive tackle. He posted 53 tackles, 3 interceptions, one sack (unofficial) and 2 fumble recoveries. He returned an interception for a 79-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also claimed that he introduced the crossbar slam dunk celebration into the NFL at the end of the play. He led the team with 7 tackles in Super Bowl XII. Henderson gave himself the nickname "Hollywood" for his flamboyant play and high-visibility lifestyle.

In 1978, he couldn't start in 3 games because of an ankle injury. He returned an interception for a 68 yard touchdown (including a crossbar slam dunk) in the 28-0 NFC championship win against the Los Angeles Rams. Before Super Bowl XIII he started a war of words against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that ended up with him sharing a Newsweek magazine cover with quarterback Terry Bradshaw.[3] He also pinned Bradshaw's arms, allowing linebacker Mike Hegman to steal the ball and run 37 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XIII. He was selected to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season.

Even though he had great potential as a player, Henderson's destructive lifestyle of drugs and alcohol began to catch up with him. During many games, he snorted liquid cocaine from an inhaler he hid in his pants.[4] The final straw came in 1979, during the twelfth game against the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. While his team was being soundly beaten 34-20 on national television, Henderson mugged for the camera and displayed handkerchiefs with the Cowboys team logo. When interviewed about it, he blamed teammate Preston Pearson, saying that Pearson had asked him to show off the handkerchiefs, which Pearson was marketing, as a favor. Coach Tom Landry was so angered by the episode that after threatening to waive him, he instead deactivated Henderson for the remainder of the season by placing him on the reserve-retired list. According to sources close to the team, Landry did not intend for Henderson to ever play for the Cowboys again, even though the coach was still personally fond of Henderson.[5][6]

San Francisco 49ers

On May 15, 1980, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a fourth round draft choice (#91-Scott Pelluer).[5] On September 19, he was waived after only playing one game.[7] Henderson believed that 49ers coach Bill Walsh unloaded him because he suspected he was addicted to cocaine.[8]

Houston Oilers

On September 24, 1980, he signed as a free agent with the Houston Oilers.[9] He appeared in only six games because of a hamstring injury and played in the Oilers' playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders. He was not re-signed after the season.

Miami Dolphins

In February 1981, he became one of the first football players to publicly admit to a drug problem, and with the help of the NFL, he signed himself into a drug rehabilitation program.[8] On June 10, Henderson signed with the Miami Dolphins,[10] but suffered what proved to be a career-ending neck injury in the final preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.[11] On August 31, he was placed on the injured reserve list.[12] He was not re-signed after the season.

Personal life

Lawrence Taylor, perhaps the greatest player ever at the linebacker position, said that he was inspired to wear 56 because it was Henderson's number.[13]

In November 1983, Henderson was arrested for doing cocaine with two teenage girls in California. He was accused of threatening them with a gun and sexually assaulting one of them. He claimed that he gave them drugs in exchange for consensual sex. Henderson had no history of assaults or sexual misconduct prior to the 1983 incident. He pleaded no contest to the charges and entered a treatment center and remained there for seven months before his 28 months in prison. He states that "Hollywood" died on November 8, 1983, and he has remained clean and sober ever since.

Henderson made the news again in 2000 by winning the Lotto Texas US$28 million jackpot. He started a charity (East Side Youth Services & Street Outreach) and has made major donations to the East Austin community where he grew up. He currently gives motivational speeches and sells videos of his anti-drug seminars (HHH 56 Investments Ltd.). When asked by The Dallas Morning News what he does every day having won the lottery, Henderson responded, "Not a damn thing, and I don't start that until after lunch".[14] He is the father of two daughters and five grandchildren. Henderson says crack cocaine was his downfall, and that embarrassing his mother, family and friends ultimately changed him. He is now retired and lectures across America.[15]


  • Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty by Thomas Henderson and Peter Knobler (1987) (ISBN 0-399-13264-3)
  • In Control: The Rebirth of an NFL Legend by Thomas Henderson and Frank Luksa (2004) (ISBN 0-9759890-0-6)


  1. ^ Marshall, Joe (January 29, 1979). "My, How You Do Run On And On". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ "Thomas Henderson Black College Football Hall of Fame bio". Black College Football Hall of Fame. October 25, 2017. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ Roza, Greg (2003). Terry Bradshaw (First ed.). New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. p. 71. ISBN 0-8239-3609-0.
  4. ^ Downey, Mike (September 7, 1987). "Hollywood Henderson Went Through Hell and Lived to Tell About It". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Sports Transactions". The Bryan Times. Bryan, Ohio. United Press International. May 16, 1980. p. 15. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ Katz, Michael (January 31, 1980). "'Hollywood' sorry but won't beg Landry". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020 – via The Ledger.
  7. ^ "Sad ending for Hollywood as 49ers waive goodby". New York Daily News. New York, New York. September 20, 1980. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Miami goes for Hollywood". The Atlanta Constitution. Atlanta, Georgia. June 14, 1981. p. 67. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ "'Hollywood' Joins Oilers". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. September 25, 1980. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ "Transactions". The Beaver County Times. Beaver, Pennsylvania. June 11, 1981. p. 13. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ "Hollywood Will Return". Star-Banner. Ocala, Florida. October 22, 1981. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ "Transactions". Daily Record. Ellensburg, Washington. September 1, 1981. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Harvey, Randy (March 28, 2000). "It's Real Hollywood Ending for Transformed Henderson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ "Thomas 'Hollywood' Henderson returns to OKC, visits high school alma mater". The Oklahoman. January 15, 2016. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ "Thomas Henderson's odyssey is a tale made for Hollywood". Las Vegas Sun. April 3, 2011. Retrieved 2020.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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