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November 06, 1999 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-06

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3F The Michigan Daily - Football Saturday - November 6, 1999
Safety T I has seen alot during his career at Michigan. H s won a national championshp, played in
wo bowls ad now anchors a young Michigan secondary, But through it all, he's remained


November F. 1999 - Erm
With former coach and program. savior Gary Barnett jumping
Northwestern's program for dead, first-year coach Rai
is attempting to lead the Wildcats back along tI





By Andy Latack U Daily Sports Editor

W hen Tommy Hendricks
walked onto the Michigan
campus while being
ecruited in high school, loyal
Oichigan fans did a double take.
'Wasn't there a Tom Hendricks
vho played a long time ago?'
hought the fans as they heard about
he 6-foot-2, 205-pound recruit from
Eisenhower High School in Houston.
Those fans were right. Tom
Hendricks did play running back for
the Wolverines in 1954 and 1955.
Now his son Tommy is a senior free
But Hendricks hasn't had to deal
with any shadow his father might
have cast. He got rid of that by doing
what he does best on the football
Field - hitting opponents at full
"I love making the big hit,"
Hendricks said. "It is what a safety is
supposed to do. When I have a
chance to make the big stick, I take
But when Hendricks was younger,
it looked as if he might follow in his
father's footsteps and be a running
Hendricks was adept at avoiding
:he big hits in his peewee games and
looked to be prime running back
"I was a sweet little running back,"
Hendricks said. "In flag football, I
was the man. I once scored 22 touch-
:owns in one season. No one could
stop me."
Like any other child, Hendricks
got fanatical support from his par-
ents. With all the touchdowns that
Hendricks scored when he was a
child, his parents had to name some
of his big plays.
"Mv mom's favorite is the
immaculate Reception," Hendricks
said. "In one game. I caught a ball at
my feet just before it hit the ground
and ran it in to win the game, just
like Franco Harris did for the
Steelers. So my mom called it the
Immaculate Reception, and it stuck."
One person finally stopped the
young Hendricks from winning the
Heisman Trophy as a tailback - his
high school coach. When Hendricks
arrived at Eisenhower High School,
,he coach on the freshman team
decided to shift him to quarterback.
While Hendricks' style was radi-
Yally different from Tom Brady, he
was effective as a ninth-grade signal-
caller, throwing 13 touchdown pass-
But once again, Hendricks
changed positions. The Eisenhower
varsity head coach wanted to move
Hendricks to the defensive side of
the ball. But not necessarily because

the other quarterback was better.
"The coach thought I was too tall
for the position," Hendricks said. "I
was six feet tall my freshman year of
high school and the other quarter-
back was 5-foot-8. The coach decid-
ed to go with the shorter guy. I was-
n't so happy."
After being switched to defense,
Hendricks moped around for a while
until he discovered something that he
uses religiously to this day - that
defensive players have full reign to
beat up on any offensive player they
And that's something that
Hendricks takes high priority in
"It's always my goal to give the big
hit, to lay the hurt on the other guy,"
Hendricks said. "DeWayne (Patmon)
and I love delivering the big hit."
The combination of Patmon and
Hendricks leaves wide receivers and
running backs roaming in the sec-
ondary in fearing for their personal

But when Hendricks was asked if
there was a competition between
himself and Patmon for the title of
biggest hitter, he shrugged his shoul-
"That's a good idea," Hendricks
said. "We should have thought about
that before the season started. We
can't do it now, because sometimes
people claim hits that they didn't
Hendricks claimed Michigan after
looking at a list of schools that
included Texas, Texas A&M, Notre
Dame and North Carolina.
Hendricks had some subtle prod-
ding to go to Michigan, as his father
wanted his son to follow in his foot-
steps and play in Michigan Stadium.
While the elder Tom Hendricks sold
Michigan passionately, he didn't
force his son to become a Michigan
"It was a really big factor,"
Hendricks said about his father play-

ing at Michigan. "It opened my eyes
to the University. He was pretty
adamant about telling me about
Michigan. but he pretty much left it
up to me"
It turned out to be a difficult deci-
sion for Hendricks. Although he was
a legacy at Michigan, Hendricks had
a hard time turning down the Texas
schools because, simply, football in
Texas is a religion.
At Eisenhower, Hendricks played
in a stadium which seated 16,000
While that figure looks shoddy
compared to Michigan Stadium's
107,501 holding capacity, it is big in
high school football.
As with many things. high school
football is bigger in Texas.
"It's nuts down there," Hendricks
said. "People there are crazy about
football. Texas has by far the best
high school football in the country."
But Texas has one thing that
Hendricks doesn't like - the city of

San Antonio. Hendricks played in the
state semifinals against Converse
Judson - which is located in the San
Antonio metropolitan area - in the
Eisenhower lost to Judson and
Hendricks has hated the Alamo City
ever since.
"I hate San Antonio," Hendricks
said. "We should have won that game
against Judson. I hated that team and
I hate the city they come from."
With Michigan losing two games
in the Big Ten thus far this season, a
trip to San Antonio for the Alamo
Bowl is a distinct possibility. But
Hendricks wants nothing to do with
the Alamo in late December.
"There is no way we are going to
the Alamo Bowl, I guarantee you
that," Hendricks said.
Besides his hatred of San Antonio,
Hendricks isn't too happy about
Alamo Bowl prospects because the
bowl does not fit Michigan's stan-
dards of excellence.
Those standards are a big reason
why Hendricks committed to
"I canceled the rest of my visits
after visiting here,' Hendricks said.
"Michigan has great academics and a
great social atmosphere. I especially
enjoy the social atmosphere of this
"And the football program speaks
for itself."
As the only senior in a young sec-
ondary. Hendricks takes it upon him-
self to lead the young guys. The sec-
ondary has taken a lot of heat and
Hendricks'job is to keep the younger
defensive backs focused on their
Hendricks learned a lot of his
leadership skills from his secondary
mates during the 1997 national
championship season.
Guys like Charles Woodson and
Marcus Ray helped make Hendricks'
acclamation to Michigan as smooth
as possible.
"Those guys were great,"
Hendricks said. "Steve King was a
big factor in my early years. They did
things to help me get adjusted to
Michigan and got me to respect them
very qitkly."
When asked what those things
were, Hendricks refused to com-
ment, saying that it was a surprise for
future Michigan defensive backs to
But its no surprise that Hendricks
has emerged as a defensive leader.
"Guys like Tommy Hendricks do a
good job keeping everyone together,"
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
"They are the type of guys you need
to have on a team."

As he does prior to any game,
Northwestern coach Randy
Walker has been watching
film of Michigan this week. He does
this in an effort to notice the
Wolverines' weaknesses, make the
necessary adjustments and exploit
them come game time.
So Walker has seen Michigan's
alarming potential to give up big
plays on defense. One could hardly
watch a minute of the Wolverines'
last three games - losses to
Michigan State and Illinois and a
narrow win over Indiana - and not
see an opponent breaking away for a
long gain or a touchdown.
So Walker is probably licking his
chops, right?
Not exactly.
You see. Northwestern's offense
has as much trouble making a big
play as Michigan's defense does
stopping one. Northwestern is aver-
aging a meager 4.0 yards per play, as
compared to 5.2 for Michigan and
all the rest of the Wildcats' oppo-
nents this year. So Michigan's appar-
ent defensive vulnerability is of no
concern to Northwestern's coach.
"That doesn't affect us because we
can't make a big play," Walker said.
"We have to nickel and dime, scratch
and claw. We're really struggling to
make big plays."
But unfortunately for Walker,
Northwestern has been providing its
opponents with plenty of opportuni-
ties to break the game open.
A few weeks ago, the Wildcats
were battling with conference heavy-
weight Purdue before they let up a
99-yard fourth-quarter touchdown
bomb from Drew Brees to Vinny
Sutherland that sealed the game.
And just last week, in the
Wildcats' 35-19 loss to Wisconsin,
quarterback Zak Kustok threw two
interceptions inside the Badgers' 10-
yard line. One of them was returned
93 yards by Wisconsin cornerback
Jamar Fletcher for a crucial touch-
But Walker can't fault Kustok, a
Notre Dame transfer who left after
the Irish installed their option
"If I look at the one slant that was
picked for a TD, that's where I told
him to throw it," Walker said. "I
know what he saw, and it wasn't that
bad of a decision."
*Still, the Wildcats have made more
than their share of mistakes this sea-
son, and have a 1-3 Big Ten record
and a 3-4 overall mark to show for it.
Walker knows this disturbing trend
must stop if the Wildcats are going
to stay with Michigan.

"We're going to work real hard to
take these self-inflicted wounds and
these turnovers out of our football
team," Walker said. "We have to take
advantage of the scoring opportu:i-
ties we've got."
If Northwestern had done that
against Wisconsin and Purdue, it
would have probably come out on
top in at least one of those games.
But in hanging around with such
ranked foes, Walker feels that he has
his program going in the right direc-
"I don't see any give-up in our
kids," Walker said. "I think they've
felt like they've made some strides
and they're committed to making the

kinds of strides they need to make
the rest of the way."
Much of that determination is a
result of Walker's hard-nosed style,
an approach he developed as head
coach at Miami (Ohio) University.
Walker led the RedHawks from
1990 to 1998, and left as the win-
ningest coach in program history
with a 59-35-5 record.
An impressive feat considering
some of the names that have stalked
the sidelines at Miami. Dubbed the
"Cradle of Coaches," the program
has spawned such coaching legends
as Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes
and Ara Parseghian.
Much like Walker's predecessors at

Miami, his style is hard-nosed ar
no-nonsense. And as a result, ma
of his players embody the same c
"We have the same style of pl
we did at Miami," Walker said."
never question our effort or our
commitment. I think our kids bu
into what we're trying to do."
One player who appears to be
ing Walker's all-out style is runn
back Damien Anderson. The jun
has emerged as the primary offe
weapon for the Wildcats, averag
106.6 rushing yards per game.
"By and large, he's really been
guy for us," Walker said of Ande
"There's not a whole lot of reps f
4( 4
V ,,. i
C$t XYL ~ UiNrt

Drew Brees is one of many players who has felt the wrath of Michigan free safety Tommy Hendricks this season. The
senior is currently third on the team with 48 tackles.'

Northwestern coach Randy Walker, right, left Miami (Ohio) University as the winningest coach in program history, and is
attempting to replicate that success with Northwestern this season.

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