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Almost 40 Years Later, Hollywood's Trick Turns Into NFL Ban

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As a kid raised on the Cowboys, I was always enamored with Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. On a team filled with success but soaked in stoicism, the flamboyant linebacker stood out with his both his talent and temperament.

    In a 1977 he did something so unique and unprecedented that it took NFL players 35 years to duplicate and perfect and, finally, get outlawed.

    Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Texas Stadium, Henderson picked off an out-route pass by Gary Huff and headed down the sideline. With speed previously reserved only for receivers and running backs, he raced untouched 79 yards for a touchdown. But the awesome display was only beginning. As he crossed the goal line, Henderson took three giant steps, jumped and did something never before seen in an NFL game.

    He dunked the football over the crossbar.

    From my view in the 8th row at about the 10-yard line, it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen in sports. And it still ranks up there today.

    It was at that point that me, and millions of football fans, realized the crossbar was 10 feet high. And think about his feat. Dunking by tight ends Tony Gonzalez or Jimmy Graham after 8-yard touchdowns? Sure. But try getting that high after running more than 80 yards.

    Yes, Hollywood was that special.

    Hollywood’s dunking was the first, but certainly not the last. And in 2013 the celebration became so commonplace that NFL owners voted to makedunking a penalty in 2014. Seems silly to me. Making it a penalty only if the crossbar is damaged to the point of having to be re-aligned would make much more sense.

    But somewhere – as if winning the Texas Lottery twice didn’t do the trick – Hollywood Henderson is a happy, reflective man today.

    A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.