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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #88: Terry Glenn

Sometimes, sports is fairy tale. Sometimes, sports is tragedy. Sometimes, as with Terry Glenn, it is both.

Glenn grew up the hard way. He never knew his father, and his mother was beaten to death by a man she had just met when Glenn was 13. He shuffled around foster homes, and eventually walked on at The Ohio State University, where he proceeded to set school game and season receiving records. His junior year he caught 64 balls for 1411 yards and 17 scores.

Glenn declared for the 1996 NFL draft, which would prove to be one of the best wide receiver drafts in league history: Keyshawn Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, among others collectively earning 26 pro bowls at WR. (It was a pretty good middle linebacker draft too, with Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas and Tedy Bruschi being selected.) the Patriots controversially drafted Glenn at number seven overall, despite head coach Bill Parcells wanting a defensive player.

Glenn’s rookie season got off to a bumpy start, with hamstring trouble and personality clashes with the mercurial Parcells. (Who can forget the coach’s famously offensive quip when asked about Glenn’s recovery from the leg injury - “she’s making progress.”) It all seemed to work out when Glenn meshed superbly with quarterback Drew Bledsoe, providing the speedy deep threat the cannon-armed Bledsoe needed. Both players had great seasons, Glenn setting a rookie record with 90 catches to go with 1,132 yards and six TDs. The offensively loaded Pats made it all the way to the Super Bowl, including one of my favorite plays of all time against the Steelers in the divisional round. On the game’s opening play, Drew shocked Pittsburgh by going deep in the thick fog, hitting a streaking Glenn to set up the team’s first score. It had been a long time since we had tasted playoff magic in New England (this was 1997, remember), and it was delicious.

Glenn’s tenure in New England was rocky, marred by injuries, problems with management, and personal difficulties. When healthy and focused, Glenn remained one of the better wideouts in the game. Over his six seasons with the Patriots, he caught 329 balls for 4,669 yards and 22 touchdowns. His last TD was Tom Brady’s first NFL touchdown pass, before the team suspended him for the rest of the 2001 season. He wasn’t even voted a Super Bowl ring when the Patriots shocked the Rams that February.

Glenn went on to play for the Packers and the Cowboys, adding another 4,000 yards and 22 scores to his career totals (and reuniting with Bledsoe in Dallas). He retired in 2007 at age 33 and over the next decade had a string of legal issues (including an arrest for public intoxication and urinating in a Jack in the Box parking lot). By age 44 he was dead, killed in a car accident.

There was fairy tale to Terry Glenn, a hard-luck kid who made it to the pros with hard work and luck. And there was tragedy to Terry Glenn, in his personal life and in the greater career he might have had.

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