Yesterday, a man named Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson, a professional footballer with a story of his own, shared some memories of Tom Landry, longtime coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Ken Hutcherson, who died in December after a decade-long battle with cancer.
“He was a hard hitting middle linebacker that I went to training camp with in his second year with Cowboys. He later played for Seattle. Ken carried Landry’s playbook and his Bible everywhere.”
Hutch was going up against some talented men. Some were veterans of the game. Others were rookies, just drafted.
“The numbers were against Ken making the team,” Henderson explains, despite Hutch having played the year before.
Coach Landry spoke to the men on the final day of that camp in 1975. He had to declare who had made the team and who had not.
“This is a tough business and sometimes decisions are difficult. I had to cut a friend today,” Landry said, trying to hold back his emotions.
That friend was Ken Hutcherson.
“Landry started to cry. He then dismissed us.”
“I hope you guys are worth it,” he said. He was taking a chance letting Hutch go, a good player and a good man. Hutch was a man of character.
“During my five-year career as a Dallas Cowboy, I never saw an emotional Tom Landry for any reason. A rare moment indeed.”
Twelve rookies made that team. The Dirty Dozen the motley crew was called, Henderson says. Henderson struggled, off-field mostly, with drugs and alcohol. His behavior became increasingly distracting, even to the point of using cocaine during games. Eventually, after several warnings, Landry had enough, first benching and then waiving him.
Meanwhile, Landry decided to trade Hutch to the San Diego Chargers rather than just cut him loose. Then, Hutch was drafted by a new expansion team, the Seattle Seahawks, only to have an injury end his football career prematurely. But Hutch had higher aspirations than just football. He wanted to preach and teach the gospel. He wanted to change lives, beyond this temporal, corrupted world.
“Ken Hutcherson has gone on to minister and impact lives. I know he impacted Tom Landry. God bless his family and the man he was and is. Obviously Landry has prepared a place for him.”
Landry died in 2000, eleven years after being fired by a brash new Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. Jones chose a different path, a flashier one, replacing him with Jimmy Johnson.
By that time, 1989, Hutch was a pastor at Westminster Chapel, though he had been proselytizing for most of his life.
“You are a special man, Ken. I knew it then and I know it now. For 39 years I’ve known you were a special man. God bless.”
Hutch was a remarkable man of faith. Yet, he was just a man, an ordinary man. But a common, ordinary man with a passionate love of God, life and people. He impacted me, too.
That’s what I loved about Hutch. He was just one of the guys. He never thought himself better than anyone else.
Thanks, Hollywood, for sharing.