His appearance has always baffled people. Bill Curry, the Colts' center when Hendricks played for Baltimore and now the Georgia Tech coach, once described Hendricks as looking "like a series of toothpicks" with "long, whippy, macaroni arms." Actually, his arms are well-muscled and sturdy. What's unusual is their length, even for a man as tall as Hendricks. He wears a size 37 sleeve. And those long, powerful arms, with tremendous strength in the wrists and fingers, are part of Hendricks' secret.
"He's got a different type of strength than what you're accustomed to seeing," says John Madden, who coached Hendricks for four years at Oakland. "You look at his body and you figure, 'Gee, it doesn't look very strong.' It isn't all that short muscle that people are used to seeing on football players. His real power comes from the muscle that starts at the insertion of the shoulder and goes to the insertion of the elbow; that's a big, big muscle, lengthwise. We're so used to judging muscle mass by thickness that we forget that if you take the same muscle and stretch it over a longer distance, it's going to be as big or bigger. Also, a long muscle like that gives you more tensile strength and power."
After Hendricks' senior year, Miami Coach Charlie Tate said, "No one who ever played defensive end on the college level ever played it any better." Practically everything else there was to say about Hendricks was said, too, including the fact that he was smart. He'd graduated 72nd out of a class of 1,400 in high school. In his senior year at Miami he carried a C+ average, but his courses were electromagnetic theory, elementary decision theory (statistics), differential equations, topology and mathematical analysis. "Math has always been easy for me," Hendricks says.
A magazine sent a stringer to get information for a possible feature story on Hendricks. "This guy's no dummy," the stringer's memo read. "His favorite authors are William Blake and Oscar Wild [sic]." Someone told Hendricks about that spelling of Wilde. He snorted. "Maybe he meant Wild Oscar," he said.
His college football career reached a peak when Miami played USC and O.J. Simpson in the Coliseum: The Stork vs. The Juice. USC won 28-3, and O.J. gained 163 yards, most of them on plays away from Hendricks'. The final line in one report of the game still bugs Hendricks. He says it was "the most disturbing thing ever written about me." The line: "...there probably are a lot of mad storks to be found in the world, but there is only one bundle like O.J."
"Just remember," Hendricks says, "that I'm still playing. I'm still here. They didn't think I could make it at 6'8", 215 because no one else ever had before me. It was silly, really. If you can play, you can play."
Baltimore's Don Shula took a chance on Hendricks. The first contract meeting was held at the Miami home of owner Carroll Rosenbloom. Hendricks hadn't eaten any breakfast or lunch.
"I guess you don't have any objection if I weigh you, do you?" Rosenbloom's son Steve said. The bathroom scale showed 218, with clothes. "He caught us off guard," said Hendricks' agent, Mike Zarowny. "If Ted had eaten first, he'd have been $5,000 ahead. But I never would have watered him. I wouldn't water a client." Hendricks signed that night—three years at $18,500, $21,500 and $23,500, plus a $20,000 bonus.
The '69 Colts were a veteran team, coming down from a Super Bowl loss to the Jets, a year away from beating Dallas in the Super Bowl. They were not a team into hazing rookies, and, in fact, they liked the gangly Hendricks.
"The day I joined the team," Hendricks says, "all the veterans came over to me and said, 'We're glad to have you with us'—all of them, John Mackey, Ray Perkins, Lou Michaels, John Unitas. They were all gentlemen. I found out later that Unitas was glad to see me because I was the only guy on the team with skinnier legs than his.