Thomas Henderson (American football)

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Thomas Henderson
Thomas Henderson signing autographs in Jan 2014.jpg
Henderson signs autographs in Houston in January 2014.
No. 56
Position: Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1953-03-01) March 1, 1953 (age 62)
Place of birth: Austin, Texas
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 221 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school: Oklahoma City (OK) Douglass
College: Langston
NFL draft: 1975 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • Pro Bowl (1978)
  • Super Bowl champion (1977)
Career NFL statistics
Stats at
Stats at

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson (born March 1, 1953) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League. He played from 1975 through 1980. He played five seasons for the Dallas Cowboys. He was waived by Dallas following on-camera antics during the team's 1979 game against the Washington Redskins. Henderson played in six games the next year with the Houston Oilers before suffering a career-ending injury.

Early years[edit]

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.[1] After graduation Henderson joined the Air Force, but quit before being sworn in.

Henderson would eventually walk on 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.[2] As a senior he was named Southwest district Defensive Player of the Year.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Henderson was drafted in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft, as part of the Dallas Cowboys Dirty Dozen draft. He made his mark on special teams during his first two years, becoming a starter at the strongside linebacker position in 1977. He was selected to the Pro Bowl at the end of the 1978 season. Lawrence Taylor, perhaps the greatest player ever at the position, said that he was inspired to wear 56 because it was Henderson’s number.[3] Henderson gave himself the nickname "Hollywood" for his flamboyant play and high-visibility lifestyle. "Hollywood" was such a good athlete that the Cowboys used him to run reverses on kickoffs, returning one for a touchdown. He was one of the first linebackers to run a 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 9.5 seconds in the 100-yard dash. He helped lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowls, including a win in Super Bowl XII.[4]

Before Super Bowl XIII he started a war of words against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that ended up with him sharing a TIME magazine cover with quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

However, 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.[5] The final straw came in 1979 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 he deactivated Henderson for the remaining four games of the season and later waived him. "Landry had given me plenty of warning," Henderson admits.

San Francisco 49ers[edit]

The San Francisco 49ers signed Henderson, but waived him during the 1980 preseason.

Houston Oilers[edit]

Henderson was later signed by the Houston Oilers, but played only six games in 1980 because of a hamstring injury. At the end of the season his contract was not renewed. After leaving the Oilers, 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.[6]

Miami Dolphins[edit]

In 1981 Henderson signed with the Miami Dolphins but in the final preseason game suffered a career-ending neck injury. He was on injured reserve and paid his full salary for the 1981-82 season.

After football[edit]

In November 1983, Henderson was arrested for smoking 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 served eight months in drug rehabilitation as well as 28 months in prison. He states that "Hollywood" died on November 8, 1983, and he has remained clean and sober ever since. In 1993, his old coach and critic Tom Landry was among those who congratulated him on ten years of clean living.

Henderson made the news again in 2000 by winning the Lotto Texas $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."[7] 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.[8] On November 8, 2013 Henderson reportedly had been clean and sober for 30 years.


Henderson's autobiography, Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty, written with co-author Peter Knobler, was published in 1987.[9][10]


  • Langston University Athletic Hall of Fame (2002)
  • Pro Bowl (1978)


  • Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty by Thomas Henderson and Peter Knobler (1987) (ISBN 0-399-13264-3)[9]
  • In Control: The Rebirth of an NFL Legend by Thomas Henderson and Frank Luksa (2004) (ISBN 0-9759890-0-6)


  1. ^ Dallas Cowboys. (2000-04-29). Retrieved on 2012-09-17.
  2. ^ "My, How You Do Run On And On". CNN. 1979-01-29. 
  3. ^ Harvey, Randy (2000-03-28). "It's Real Hollywood Ending for Transformed Henderson". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ [1] Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Archive, Super Bowl XII: Cowboys-Broncos
  5. ^ "Hollywood Henderson Went Through Hell and Lived to Tell About It" Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1987
  6. ^ Thomas Henderson
  7. ^ "Lore of the Ring", Dallas Morning News
  8. ^ "Thomas Henderson's odyssey is a tale made for Hollywood," Las Vegas Sun, April 3, 2011
  9. ^ a b Henderson (1990) Out of Control Confessions of an NFL Casualties Thomas "Hollywood". ISBN 9780671736507 Retrieved on 2012-09-17.
  10. ^ "Henderson Tells of Out-of-control Days in Book" Chicago Tribune, June 16, 1987

External links[edit]