ACC Legends Week: Miami's Ted Hendricks
Nov. 12, 2012
Ted Hendricks (Miami, 1966-68), known as the "Mad Stork" for his tall (6-foot-7), angular build and his dominating defensive play, started three seasons at defensive end for the Miami Hurricanes under coach Charlie Tate. A three-time All-America for the Hurricanes, he earned consensus, first-team All-America honors in 1967 and 1968, and led Miami to a 20-11-1 record. In 1968 he ended his collegiate career as Miami's all-time leading tackler with 318 hit. That year, he was named UPI National Lineman of the Year and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He went on to a spectacular 15-year NFL career as an outside linebacker playing in 215 consecutive games with the Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, Oakland and L.A Raiders. During his time in the NFL, he helped lead his teams to four Super Bowl championships, was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, four times was selected as an All-Pro and five times named second-team All-Pro. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1987 and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time team and to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1970s. He was inducted into the University of Miami Hall of Fame in 1980, to its Ring of Honor in 1997 and in 1997 had his jersey number--number 89--retired. His philanthropic foundation--The Ted Hendricks Foundation--is aimed at providing assistance to local and national charities through awards, grants and scholarship programs aimed at recreational, health and educational programs for both youth and seniors. The foundation also sponsors the Ted Hendricks Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top defensive end, but which also considers academic and community excellence in the selection process. Born in Guatemala, he grew up in Miami Springs, Fla., and now lives in suburban Chicago, Ill.
The Ted Hendricks Foundation has been able to successfully reach out to such a broad group of individuals. What are your major areas of focus?
For the youth, we sponsor a Pop Warner League down in Miami and also Boys and Girls Clubs in Oakland. For the seniors, we deal with dementia problems and Alzheimer's disease. That is a special area of emphasis because a lot of our (NFL) Hall of Famers have come down with that.
You are a native of Guatemala but grew up in the Miami area. At what age did you move to Florida?
My family left Guatemala a week and a half after I was born. But every vacation we had, we went back down to Guatemala. I had to be able to talk to my cousins, so that's why I speak fluent Spanish.
That has probably helped you with some of the work you are doing now, especially with the young people, hasn't it?
Yes, it sure has. I tried to take Spanish as my language in college, but I was in the Honors Physics program and they told me Spanish wasn't a `scientific language,' so I had to take German instead.
Why was Spanish not considered 'scientific?'
I don't know. They considered German and French and Russian and Chinese the `scientific languages.' I guess they didn't think anyone in the Spanish world had done anything in Engineering or anything like that. I was disappointed because that was guaranteed an `A.'
Growing up in the area, did you always have your mind set on attending Miami?
The great thing about Miami was that they offered me four scholarships - football, baseball, basketball and academics. That's what really sealed the deal for me.
Did you get a chance to play any of those other sports?
I tried to, but we were in bowl games when basketball season rolled around and it was halfway through before I had a chance to go over there. I tried to play baseball, too, but they always wanted me to go through (football) spring practice first. So I never got a chance to go over to baseball either.
When you consider the fact that you are still the only three-time All-American in the history of Miami Football- when you look at the history of that program and the players that have come through there, is that something that you are kind of awed by and that you take a lot of pride in?
I take a lot of pride in all of the athletes that have come out of Miami. Even when we were having bad seasons, there were guys like Chuck Foreman and O.J. Anderson and several other top athletes who were great in their NFL careers. That was the most important thing to me--the quality of players that were coming out of the University of Miami.
You were drafted by the Colts in 1969. They had just played against the Jets in Super Bowl III in Miami a few months earlier. Had you been able to slip into that game by any chance?
No, I sure hadn't. But as a matter of fact, Joe Namath was riding around in my hometown of Miami Springs prior to that game, so that was quite a treat.
When you wound up being drafted by Baltimore, a team with the tradition they had and one that had just played in a Super Bowl, was that exciting for you?
No, it wasn't. They had two All-Pros at the position I thought I was going to play (defensive end), and I really didn't know why they drafted me. They'd told me I was too skinny to play, that I looked like a basketball player at 6-foot-7, 215 pounds. I said, `Well, I guess when they cut me, I will go find another place to play where I can contribute something.' George Young was with them at the time (in player personnel), and he was under the pressure of being fired if he drafted me. But he drafted me anyway. And once the season rolled around, he was still with the team and so was I."
They made a linebacker out of you. They had another great linebacker there at the time in (former Duke star) Mike Curtis. Did he kind of take you under his wing?
Actually, I tried to emulate him. I remember once when (Jim) Grabowski (of the Green Bay Packers) was coming through the middle of the line, and Mike just clothes-lined him and knocked his helmet off. Grabowski went staggering off toward the wrong bench, and I had to tap him on the shoulder and tell him to go back the other way. I said, `Here, take this, too,' and handed him his helmet. Once before a game, I thought Mike had broken his arm because he had these pads on his forearms. But I was wearing those same pads the next game.
When you went back to Miami to play in Super Bowl V, did that take on a special meaning for you, to get back on the field where you had played so many college games and to get back to your hometown?
It sure did. Tickets were only $15 apiece for the Super Bowl. I had quite a contingency there in the stands. And believe it or not, it wasn't a sellout either. I think I had about 300 tickets I had to order, and I remember filling out the forms for all of them. But they all reimbursed me--I made sure of that.
Afterwards, things really seemed to come together for you with the Raiders with three more Super Bowl rings, and you wound up playing for a couple of Hall of Fame coaches. When you look back at your NFL career, does it seem as if it could have been scripted much better?
No, I don't think so. I also stopped one year in Green Bay, and Baltimore and Green Bay were the two top teams in the NFL at that time when you looked at the history. And when I went to the Raiders, I'd met most of their players at the Pro Bowl games before I got there and felt like I knew their team pretty well. I felt like I would just be adding to them when I got there, and sure enough it turned out that way.
You seem to still have strong ties to Oakland. You mentioned that one of the youth organizations you work with is based there.
Correct. We have a bowling tournament that I have over there in connection with the first game of the season. A bunch of the old Raiders come in and bowl and mix with the fans. It's been real successful. We had two teams each of the Alameda Boys and Girls Club and the Oakland Boys and Girls Club that we sponsor. They come over, and it's really fun for them to meet the former players and learn a little bit about the team's history.
Do you pretty much stay on the go with all the things you have going on?
We do. Another thing is the golf tournament we have in Miami at Doral. That's for the Pop Warner League. We were down in Miami earlier, and they had three teams in the finals. We watched one of them play, and they were the 13-year-olds. We used to watch those same kids when they were just Mighty Mites. I used to tell (late Raiders owner) Al Davis that I had a farm team for him.
We are getting ready to honor you as an ACC Legend. As an alumnus, how do you feel Miami's transition to the ACC has gone?
I thought that was a real good thing for the sports programs at Miami. I thought that was a real good deal for them and a nice blend to come into an organization like the ACC. Plus, I get to play in the golf tournament up there, too (with ACC and SEC coaches at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Challenge) in Georgia at Reynolds Plantation. We give out the (Ted Hendricks) Award for the best defensive end in college football, and I recruit them to vote for their guys. We've had a lot of response from that.
That has grown into one of the major awards in college football, hasn't it?
We've had some spectacular choices from our selection committee - I just give out the trophy, but we've had some great choices from the committee. Terrell Suggs was the first winner in 2002, and David Pollack won it twice in a row. One year we had four of our former winners in the Pro Bowl. But the award is based on community service, also. Just this summer, I went to LaMarr Woodley's wedding in Saginaw, Michigan. The public schools in his hometown were charging (a participation fee) for athletics. LaMarr paid for all of those kids to be able to play athletics in their schools. It was really quite nice of him.
With all the community work you do, it must make you proud to see your own award winners following suit.
Oh, yes. Very much so.