Everyone knows Ted's amazing football career as an all-pro linebacker. He played in 215 consecutive NFL games that included four Superbowls and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.
What few know is the role the Grove Guy played in supporting Ted's career. I was on the stork's first football team. (Back Row: Ted Hendricks, David Reese, and the Grove Guy. Bottom Row: Bill Moore, David Kluthe, and Alan Barnette.
Six of us represented Ms. Howell's sixth grade class in the Miami Springs Elementary School Football Classic. It wasn't the Super Bowl but it seemed like it at the time.
Six years later Ted was the best player on our high school team. The coaches called him "The Green Giant" (a cartoon figure in the 1960's who sold vegetables). He went on to be an all-American at the University of Miami. Tall and thin, they called him "The Stork". After that, when he began tearing apart quarterbacks for the Oakland Raiders, he became "The Mad Stork".
Ted retired from football in 1983. He now has his own the charitable foundation and bequeaths The Hendricks Award annually upon college football's most outstanding linebacker. He also sponsors annual sports celebrity golf and bowling tournaments. They raise thousands of dollars for charity. As if that's not enough, Ted is an accomplished artist. The paintings I've seen are surrealistic landscapes.
I played a minor role on Ted's high school team. I only saw action in practices and kept the bench warm during games. I tell my kids I did catch a few passes in the Orange Bowl but it was during the pre-game warm up.
I did have one shining moment in our senior year. It was in the third-quarter of our post-season game, "The Menenac Bowl" in Tampa, Florida.
Ted ripped his pants badly making it difficult for him to play. Our coach turned to the bench and spoke to me for the first time asking, "What's your pant size, son?". When I answered "34" he ordered me to switch with Ted. Wearing my clean britches Ted re-entered the game and helped our team win.
While I never got to play in games, I did get to see them for free.
I also got to hang out with jocks like Ted who were smart and funny. He has always treated me with warmth and respect. Despite his years as a ferocious football warrior, he treats everyone this way.
Two weeks ago he was attending his first high school reunion with his long-time partner, Lynda Babi. Many asked him to pose for pictures and he kindly obliged.
OTHER SPORTS HEROES
Here he is with Francesca and our high school basketball mentor, Coach Mrazovich (Ted played b-ball as well).
It was incredible to be visiting with one of our high school teachers this late in life. Fifty years had passed yet at 90, he was easily keeping up with us in the Hialeah banquet hall. The tall Croation, long retired, continues to play guitar in a band. He showed me photos of the cigar box ukuleles he makes.
The reunion included a softball game. Interesting, most of the former football players chose not to participate saying they were too hobbled by sports injuries.
Coconut Grove's Terry Ferrer was not one of them. He told me last week, "I was on the football team for three days. When I got slammed by Richard Earie (twice my size), it was time to quit".
Terry didn't quit on the softball field two weeks ago. Playing second base, he misjudged a speeding grounder and caught it with his right eye. He continued to play and got a hit (as opposed to "getting hit") in the next inning.
After the game he stopped by our place. In two hours his injury had swollen into the ugliest black eye I'd ever seen. He said he felt okay so we had fun with the camera.
Good sport, that Terry.
Two weeks have passed and I just checked in with him. He says all that remains of his injury is a star-shaped bruise over his eye. He's considering joining a Kiss tribute band.
The reunion weekend allowed us to ponder our formative teenage years. As it ended Saturday night we said goodbyes to friends we may never see again.
As tall Ted chatted with the last of his admirers I asked, "Can I see a Super Bowl ring?". He smiled and held it up, his fist nearly as big as my head.
As I photographed it I asked why he wasn't wearing more of them, "Oh, he replied with a laugh, "I get kidded too much when I do that".
It was nice to be hanging out with old friends and our own green giant again. Four Super Bowl rings, no kidding.
The Young Stork, 1959