"Lou Michaels was my locker mate. He'd written down the date and place of all the field goals he'd kicked on the soles of his shoes. Before the games he'd sit there and look at those shoes. He'd put his arm around me and show me all the places he'd been to."
Hendricks was a reserve for his first six games. Then, in the seventh, Shula made a linebacker switch, moving Mike Curtis to the middle, Hendricks and Bob Grant to the outside spots, and benching Dennis Gaubatz and Don Shin-nick. "Shinnick wanted out at midseason," Hendricks says. "He wouldn't sit on the bench. I didn't know what I was doing, really, but I recovered quickly. I might have gotten blown off the line, but I got back to where I was supposed to be. Look at the films and you'll see some guys stretched out."
The focal figure on the defense was Curtis. To a young and impressionable pro like Hendricks, Curtis was what the NFL was all about.
"I learned not to stand near him in an enemy ball park," Hendricks says. "I remember coming into the old War Memorial Stadium to play Buffalo. Curtis was in front of me, and as we were coming onto the field, bonk, he got hit on the head with a hot dog. I'd never seen that before.
"Mike was very quiet, very much into himself. He didn't even hang around with the players much. But on the field, when he hit 'em they stayed hit. Once, when we played Green Bay, Jim Grabowski was coming through the line and Mike gave him a good old-fashioned clothesline shot. He hit him so hard he popped his helmet off. Grabowski got up wobbling. One of our guys handed him his helmet. He started heading toward our bench. I tapped him on the shoulder and turned him around and said, 'Yours is on the other side, Jim.' Then I looked over at Curtis. I figured his arm had to be broken from a shot like that. No problem. He was wearing pads on the inside of his arm. Next week I started wearing 'em, and I've won 'em ever since."
The clothesline was legal then, and Hendricks, with his size 37 arms, quickly gained a reputation as one of the best at it. "We were playing the Patriots when Joe Kapp was their quarterback," he says. "He called a sweep, and everyone ran right while he ran left. Joe's all by himself out there, trying to pitch the ball to nobody. He tried to give me his swivel-hip action. I brought my arm across from way back here. I caught him just right, feet dangling, head bobbing. I looked down to see what damage I'd done. He looked up at me and said, 'Nice hit, kid,' and went back to the huddle shaking his head."
By 1972 Shula was in Miami, and Joe Thomas had taken over as Baltimore's general manager. Don McCafferty, the '71 Super Bowl coach, was fired after five games, and the old Colt gang was breaking up. Their record sank to 5-9.
"All my old friends were gone," Hendricks says. "I told Joe I wanted to be gone, too. He said, 'When you remodel a building you take the strong pillars and build around them.' I said, 'No, Joe, you take a bulldozer and level the whole thing.' He said, 'Stay another week. If you haven't changed your mind, talk to me again.' I hadn't, so I came back. He said, 'I'll give you two choices—retire or play in Baltimore.' So I stayed for the '73 season." That year Baltimore dropped to 4-10.
In August 1974, Hendricks announced he had signed a contract for the '75 season with Jacksonville of the WFL. A week later, Thomas traded him to Green Bay. "Thomas told me, 'I'm putting you in cold storage,' " Hendricks says.
"We got a house in Ashwaubenon, a Green Bay suburb," Jane Hendricks says. "There was a paper mill on one side and a meat-packing plant on the other. We'd get the smell no matter which way the wind blew."