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Friday, October 5, 2018

The Life and Legacy of Buckeye Great Terry Glenn

How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
                                
                  Excerpt of “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth, from Terry Glenn’s memorial

When Buckeye Nation lost Terry Glenn last November, they lost a true son of Columbus. Some will remember him for his meteoric rise at Ohio State where he exploded from a walk on to All-American; becoming the only wide receiver in Ohio State history to bring home the coveted Fred Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top collegiate wide receiver. Others will remember him for his time in the NFL as an impact player for the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.

Those who were privileged with knowing Terry personally, however, knew him as a loving father, an incredibly loyal friend, and a man who left a lasting legacy of love through his work with foster children. Terry Glenn Jr., the eldest son of Terry Glenn, knew his dad both as a father and as a faithful friend, and is uniquely positioned to speak to his father’s legacy both on and off the field. We will include Terry Jr.’s insight throughout as we tell his father’s incredible story of turning tragedy into triumph.

Terry Glenn at OSU. Photo courtesy of OSU Athletics




Before Terry Glenn even stepped foot on Ohio State’s campus, he had experienced more tragedy in his formative years than perhaps anyone experiences in their entire lifetime. When Terry was a child, he didn’t see his mother very often as much of her time, she was incarcerated. When she was home, he witnessed her boyfriend physically beating her up. This was in a time in the 70’s and early 80’s where people would see things but wouldn’t want to get involved. Terry would spend his nights rocking her to sleep with ice packs on her face. His grandmother would become his only support system, but tragically she died of diabetes soon after his mother was released from prison.

Things would get even worse as his mother was found beaten to death in an abandoned building when Terry was only 13. Terry describes his resultant battle with depression, “Life was over as I knew it. I fell into a deep depression. Mute, zombie, empty, numb, hurt, worried, ashamed, self-pity, angry, bitter are some of the words that described me.  I felt alone and trusting people became an adventure.” (83 Kids Foundation website) 

Where there was family instability, the system stepped in to try and provide some stability for Terry. Terry, however, was bounced between 15 different foster homes and ten different schools between kindergarten and the 12th grade.

Terry Glenn Jr. relates how this affected his dad, “My dad was a real shy guy. He never trusted anyone just because of everything that he had been through…people turning him down, people not giving him opportunities; So, he just never ever trusted anyone unless you really showed him that he could trust you; and he wasn’t being a bad kid, he just wanted to be a normal kid.”

Terry Glenn Jr. continued, “It’s going to affect you negatively. You’re going to be blocked in. You’re not going to trust anyone. You’re going to have a small circle.”

It was at Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio where Terry starred on the gridiron and would begin to develop this tight inner circle. Terry would eventually live with the Henley family in Columbus. His coach at Brookhaven, Gregg Miller, would also serve as a father figure for Terry. Another of the families that came along and “adopted” Terry in high school was the Gwinn family; Anthony and Jayson Gwinn would both end up playing with Terry at OSU.  

Terry Glenn Jr. talked about the impact the Gwinn’s had on his father, “Mrs. Gwinn was awesome. They were everything. They were always there from Ohio State, Brookhaven and on. Jayson Gwinn (Terry’s best friend) had gotten killed in a car accident; he was going to be a first-round draft pick. He was amazing. They just became my dad’s best friends pretty much all of them. She definitely became that mother figure for sure. She was always at my dad’s games. She was always wearing his jerseys.”

“There is still the Gwinn/Glenn foundation that my dad started with Anthony Gwinn (Jason's brother), and I know we are going to do a charity event for that here soon and I’m definitely going to be involved in that.  Anthony was one of my dad’s best friends for sure. They were best friends all the way to the end.”

Georgia Hauser, a teacher for 35 years at Brookhaven High school, also became a life long friend and like a mother to Terry.


She described Terry's love for his mother, "Terry was a really very sensitive person. He was very deep and he really loved his mother. She was everything to him."

"I think he just knew that I was there for him whenever he needed somebody to do the things that a mother would do for their child. Along with Mrs. Henley, and Mrs. Gwinn, Terry knew where to go when he needed that reinforcement.”

She went on, “For me it was really like having another son. I was there when he needed me. I tried to make Terry comfortable when I could if he needed something down at Ohio State. It just added a really wonderful dimension to my life. Terry was very thoughtful. He was caring and he was appreciative.”

“He had a lot of perseverance and whenever you thought, 'I don’t know'...He stepped up to the plate.”

Diagnosed with a severe case of ADHD, it was a daily struggle to maintain his grades; hence Terry would head to OSU as a preferred walk-on. All he needed though was that one chance and the rest was history.

Terry Jr. describes his father’s journey as a walk-on and what it meant for him to be a Buckeye, “I think it meant everything to him. When he knew my mom was pregnant with me, it just pushed him even harder. Coming out of high school, he wasn’t ready to go. He was a walk-on, so everyone kind of looked down on him, but knew that he had talent. Making the team and being a part of the team, when he finally got to that point, was everything to him and it just made him work harder. Without Ohio State and without him meeting my mom and everything, there would never be any Terry Glenn, or any NFL Terry Glenn.”

Terry’s break out junior year will go down as of the most spectacular and singular seasons in Ohio State receiver history. Terry was downright explosive. He would often sacrifice his body with his catches; to the point of even laying out and diving on artificial turf, something most receivers today don’t risk. He may be best known for his 82-yard catch and run for a touchdown against Notre Dame on September 30, 1995.  

In one catch and run, he dealt the death blow to the myth that the BIG Ten was slow and plodding; electrifying the Ohio Stadium crowd and nationally televised audience.

Glenn would go on to catch 64 passes for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns (the current record for receiving touchdowns in a season) in his break out 1995 season. He remains the OSU single game record holder for receiving yards in a game with 253 against Pitt in 1995.

Terry Glenn's plaque for consensus All-American at the Buckeye Grove at OSU





Terry was drafted in the first round (seventh overall) in the 1996 draft by the New England Patriots. He had an immediate impact, setting the NFL Rookie receptions record with 90 receptions and earning him the UPI NFL rookie of the year.

Well known NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe called Terry the best receiver he had ever thrown to. This is remarkable considering he threw to the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens and Troy Brown.

Bledsoe and Glenn would develop a deep connection both off and on the field. The off the field connection grew as Drew learned more about Terry’s life circumstances and his early tragedies. Bledsoe spoke of his friend after he passed away in Sports Illustrated,“My buddy grew up in the worst of circumstances. When I finally took the time to try and see the world through his eyes he told me, “Everyone I ever loved or trusted betrayed me or died, I decided I just wouldn’t let anyone in so I wouldn’t get hurt anymore.” That recognition ultimately allowed him to slowly come around and learn to love and trust people.” (Drew Bledsoe, Nov. 20, 2017. Sports Illustrated)

Terry Glenn Jr. spoke very highly of Drew and his dad’s friendship and connection, “There is no connection like what Drew and my dad had. I wish they’d have had more time in retirement to get together to work on their off the field connection, because they definitely had it on the field. Drew’s really supportive and I couldn’t thank him more for that.” “I talk to him a couple times a week and he is really going to be involved with getting the foundation (THE Terry Glenn Foundation) running and getting everything going.”

Terry Glenn would go on to play the 2002 season in Green Bay and then would join the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. In 2005, he finished the season with 1,136 receiving yards while leading the NFL in yards per catch and helped lead them to the playoffs in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Terry Glenn catching a pass for the New England Patriots






While Terry Glenn was spectacular and accomplished on the field, his son Terry Jr. wants people to know the kind of person he was off the field, and the kind of father he was.

“The main thing I want people to know is that he was so much more than a football player. Everyone remembers him as that. Of course, when I was young, he was a big deal as a football player. A lot of my big memories are of him as that. I truly want people to know that he was so much more of a father figure and cared about his kids and us way more than he cared about football.”

He talked about how his dad’s early experiences shaped how he treated his brothers and sisters,” He was in 15 different foster homes, so he never really had anything. He’d be around families opening Christmas presents and stuff and there would be no Christmas presents for him. So, I think that’s really what led him to give me and all my brothers and sisters everything that we ever wanted, because that’s something that he never had.”

Terry Jr. continued, “He loved having a big family. My brothers and sisters and I were everything to him. All he did was try to make us happy. I remember back when I was an only child; My dad gave me every single thing that I could possibly want. I saw the same thing with all my brothers and sisters. They always had everything they wanted. He was just a big family man. We always went fishing. We always went to Disney World; things like that besides the material things. He was always there for all of us."

While Terry Glenn Sr.'s early experiences built in him an unconditional love for his children, they also gave him a profound and abiding love for foster children. Terry wanted to provide that unconditional love to other children, besides his own. It was out of this desire to provide that unconditional love to foster kids that Terry developed the 83 Kids Foundation.  

Terry Glenn, Sr. described the unconditional love that every child needs on the website. 


“We as humans need that unconditional love that really is an unspoken feeling that hovers over a loving family. That was the thing that I missed the most. Since we as humans are going to make “mistakes,” we need that safety blanket of a loving family that won’t judge you and will be there for you when the chips are down. Feeling alone on an earth full of people, has to be one of the worst feelings a child could bear."


Terry Glenn, Jr. witnessed his father's passion for foster kids firsthand,“I could just tell the passion he had for it." Terry Jr said. "I’ve never seen him have that passion towards anything else other than football that he had towards this. The passion that he put into the kids...I could just tell that it was what he was destined to do. He just felt better doing it because he knew how it felt to be in that position, in the worst of that position and make it out.”

Terry Jr. talked about how his father was a real-life example to the kids he helped, “I think that he could literally provide, not just your cliché stuff; but real-life man to man, man to woman, just person to person; how not only to make it through, but be successful by making it through.”

Towards the end of his life Terry Glenn developed a renewed sense of purpose and faith that had not been there previously. It showed in his renewed energy for his foster foundation.

“You could really tell that he was a different person." Terry Jr. explained. "He found something that he had not found before, because I know that he was never really looking for God or going to church, or ever really doing that searching before. He really started reading the Bible and started really getting into it. He started going to church. I think that really helped with how he felt about the foster kids. I think it kind of just went together.”

Terry Jr. expounded, “Football was what enabled him to provide for us with everything that he did. He loved us and wanted to make sure we did not grow up like he did; He always told me that from day one. He told me I’d never have to worry about anything. Just stay on the right path, stay focused and God will lead the way.”

“He literally poured his heart and soul into the foundation and was doing everything he could to get it going and to help as many kids as possible. He was also going to move it here to Columbus as well, but obviously he didn’t get a chance to do that.”

Buckeye Nation came alongside his family and helped them in the healing process. After his father’s passing, Terry Glenn, Jr. was invited to a practice to meet Urban and to tour the facility. 

“Urban was awesome. He was really remorseful, just a really down to earth guy honestly. He completely understood what I was going through.” “I got to actually see the Biletnikoff trophy that they have there.”

Terry Glenn Jr. with Urban Meyer. Photo courtesy of @TerryGlennJr





That next weekend, the Buckeyes wore helmet stickers with the initials TG in honor of Terry’s father against the Team Up North, which the Buckeyes won 31-20.

In many ways, Terry Glenn’s legacy is still being written. His life was cut tragically short in his prime.

Terry’s kids are a huge part of that legacy.  He often prayed to have at least 5 or more kids that he could provide for in a loving family. He was blessed with seven; Terry Jr., Natalie, Samantha, Christian, Vanessa, Tatum, and Greyson.

It is my hope that we all can come alongside them and shower them with love, encouragement and to really invest in their lives. May we also cultivate in our own hearts that same love for foster children that Terry had; building on that legacy of love, until we see him again.

RIP Terrance “Terry” Glenn: July 23, 1974-November 20, 2017.

Terry’s work with 83 Kids will continue on with THE Terry Glenn Foundation, founded posthumously by 83 of Terry's former teammates, family and close friends in honor of Terry and his love for both foster children and his 7 surviving children.

The Highland Mint has kindly designed several commemorative Terry Glenn silver coins available to help launch the work of THE Terry Glenn Foundation, and help carry on his legacy. 100% of the proceeds will directly benefit the foundation and it's designated foster children organizations. They can be found on the foundation's website


    

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2018 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

Permission to reprint article required from author
Nick’s email: gobucks2204@gmail.com

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful piece. Terry's story continues through his children, and his Buckeye family will never forget #83🏈💕

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