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A TRUE SURVIVAL TEST
Gerry Callahan
January 27, 1997
Don't try telling Patriots wideout Terry Glenn that there's no greater pressure than playing in the NFL's ultimate game
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January 27, 1997

A True Survival Test

Don't try telling Patriots wideout Terry Glenn that there's no greater pressure than playing in the NFL's ultimate game

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This season he set the NFL record for receptions by a rookie, with 90, but he often saved his best moves for the end of the day, eluding reporters and autograph hounds. "Most people can't comprehend what his life has been like," says New England owner Bob Kraft. "To me, the most important thing in any business is to find people who are mentally tough, and Terry is as mentally tough as anyone I've ever met."

Kraft should know. He tossed Glenn into the fire on draft day and hoped the kid could stand the heat. Since he bought the team in January 1994, Kraft has longed for a big-play receiver to complement his marquee quarterback, Drew Bledsoe. Unfortunately for the owner and for the quarterback, the Patriots' coach, Bill Parcells, thought wide receivers were like Tic-Tacs; you could always pick one up at the checkout line. Parcells is defense-minded to the core and didn't want to use his top pick—the seventh overall selection, no less—on a player who was smaller than the hood ornament on his Cadillac. The result was a head-on collision of headstrong individuals, and though it will probably cost Kraft his coach in the end, the owner prevailed.

Some say Parcells, who last summer had his contract shortened by a year so that it now expires after the Super Bowl, has never gotten over that draft-day snub and will coach his last game for the Patriots this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. "It wasn't as much a slap at Bill as an endorsement of our system," says Kraft. "We spend $2 million a year on scouting and research, and when it came time to pick, Terry was the highest-rated player left on our board."

Every first-round pick faces his share of scrutiny, but Glenn arrived under more pressure than most. Parcells's well-publicized resistance to the selection made the spotlight burn brighter on Glenn. "I never thought it was anything personal," says Glenn. "Coach Parcells just wanted a defensive guy. I can understand that. I knew I had to work hard and win him over."

Things could not have started out much worse for Glenn. He pulled a hamstring early in training camp and missed all the preseason games as well as the regular-season opener. Across New England the legions of devout Parcellsians grumbled. They should have listened to the Tuna. As always, Glenn took it in stride. "It was no big deal," he says. "Coach Parcells likes tough guys, and as a receiver, people automatically look at you as some kind of pretty boy who gets hurt all the time. That's probably what everyone thought of me. Especially after the she thing."

Ah, the she thing. In August, during one of Parcells's daily press conferences, a reporter asked him how the injured Glenn was doing. With a smile, Parcells replied, "She's coming along." The comment cast even more doubts on Glenn's toughness.

But Glenn wasted no time in forcing the remark down Parcells's throat. In his debut against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2, Glenn caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe, diving for the ball inside the five and then, when no defender touched him, smartly rolling into the end zone. It turned out to be the opening scene in a highlight-film season. "Without Terry," says Bledsoe, "I don't think we'd be where we are right now."

Glenn caught five or more passes in 12 games. He went over the middle, he went deep, he went up in traffic, and he always seemed to come down with the football. He finished a distant second in Rookie of the Year voting, to Houston Oilers running back Eddie George, his former Ohio State teammate, but Glenn says, "I'll bet Eddie would rather be going to New Orleans."

By the final game of the regular season, even Parcells couldn't deny that Glenn had earned his stripes. The New York Giants jumped to a stunning 22-0 lead over the Patriots in a game New England needed to clinch a playoff bye, and in the third quarter Glenn suffered a hip pointer. "They told me I could sit out the rest of the game if I wanted," Glenn recalls. "I told them to give me a shot, so I could get back out there."

Earlier in the game Glenn had broken the rookie receptions record of 83, set by San Francisco 49ers light end Earl Cooper in 1980. And by the time it was over, Bledsoe and Glenn had hooked up eight times for 124 yards and a touchdown, as the Patriots rallied for a 23-22 win over Parcells's former team.

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