American Football Database
For others with a similar name, see Thomas Henderson.
Thomas Henderson (American football)
Date of birth: (1953-03-01) March 1, 1953 (age 69)
Place of birth: Austin, Texas
Career information
Position(s): Linebacker
College: Langston
NFL Draft: 1975 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18
 As player:
Dallas Cowboys
Houston Oilers
San Francisco 49ers
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls: 1978
Playing stats at

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson (born March 1, 1953) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League from 1975 through 1980.

Early years

Henderson was raised by his teenage mother in the eastside 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 he earned All-City honors playing defensive end at Douglass High School as a senior, he was not recruited by colleges, because he had a short career after having to sit out as a junior for transferring.[1] After graduation he joined the Air Force, but quit before being sworn in.

Henderson would eventually walk-on at the NAIA Langston University. His personality would earn 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

Dallas Cowboys

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 and by the end of the 1978 season he made his only Pro Bowl. 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, his 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.[citation needed] 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 was mugging for the camera and displaying 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 4 games of the season and later waived him. "Landry had given me plenty of warning," Henderson admits.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers signed him, but also ended up waiving him during the 1980 preseason. He didn't make it with the San Francisco 49ers.

Houston Oilers

He 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 wasn't 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.

Miami Dolphins

In 1981 he signed with the Miami Dolphins but in the final preseason game he suffered a career ending neck injury.

After football

In November 1983, Henderson was arrested for smoking cocaine with two teenage girls in California. He was accused of threatening with a gun and sexually assaulting them. He claimed that he gave them drugs in exchange for consensual sex. He pleaded no contest to the charges and served eight months in court-ordered drug rehabilitation as well as two years in prison. He states that "Hollywood" died on November 8, 1983, and he has remained clean and sober ever since. His autobiography, Out of Control: Confessions of an NFL Casualty, written with co-author Peter Knobler, was published in 1987.[5] 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."


  • 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)[5]
  • In Control: The Rebirth of an NFL Legend by Thomas Henderson and Frank Luksa (2004) (ISBN 0-9759890-0-6)


External links