ESPN.com will catch up with a notable sports figure from yesteryear each week in its “Where Are They Now?” series.
Claim to fame: Chad Hennings spent nine seasons as a key member of the Dallas Cowboys‘ defense, winning three Super Bowls and recording 27½ sacks and more than 200 tackles in the process. He totaled 4½ career postseason sacks, including two in Super Bowl XXX.
Hennings served four years in the Air Force before his NFL career. He flew dozens of combat and humanitarian missions over Iraq and Turkey in A-10 jets, the only such aircraft that could accommodate a 6-foot-6, 290-pound pilot. “It shaped me in multiple ways,” Hennings said of his service, which included the first Gulf War. “It helped me how to think, how to plan a strategic mission and how to be flexible in executing that mission.”
Hennings was a consensus All-America selection at Air Force in 1987, making 24 sacks in his senior season. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman that same year and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dallas selected Hennings in the 11th round of the 1988 NFL draft, taking a flier on a player whom other teams had overlooked based on his impending military obligation. After fulfilling his Air Force commitment, he joined the Cowboys as a 26-year-old rookie in 1992 and remained with the team through the 2000 season.
Catching up: These days, Hennings works in commercial real estate and investments. He also juggles speaking engagements and corporate advisory roles. “One of the things I’ve always been intrigued by has been business, so I’ve kind of been a serial entrepreneur,” Hennings said.
Notably, Hennings has written three books, the latest of which was released last month. “Forces of Character” compiles a series of conversations about reaching potential, being a positive influence and making a difference for others. The book features a diverse group of subjects, ranging from sports figures Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Jason Garrett and Gregg Popovich to a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a Space Shuttle commander and a homelessness expert. Hennings previously authored “It Takes Commitment” and “Rules of Engagement,” which were released in 1996 and 2010, respectively.
Philanthropy and religion also play significant roles in Hennings’ life. North Texas Food Bank, Christian Community Action, Wingmen Ministries and the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth are among the groups with which he is affiliated. Hennings said he gets to see former Cowboys teammates frequently at team events. “Those are relationships for a lifetime,” he said. “You pick up right where you left off and feel like you’re back in the locker room again.”
Hennings, 50, and wife Tammy live in the Dallas area. They have a son, Chase, who studies entrepreneurship at North Texas and a daughter, Brenna, who studies kinesiology at Abilene Christian.
Quotable: “I learned that the United States has a big role in the world, and that we can be a force for good.”
What’s next? When asked what he still wants to achieve, Hennings said his primary goal moving forward is to influence others to work toward the common good. “To impact my community by drawing attention to the need for character in our community, with our athletes as well as with our politicians, businessmen and church leaders.”
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