When it comes to achieving stardom in the National Football League, having the requisite athletic and physical talent isn’t enough.
What seems to separate the also-rans from the stars, and the stars from the legends, is the intangibles, such as work ethic, desire, coachability, intelligence and maturity.
Terry Glenn was one of the more talented wideouts in the NFL in the 1990s and 2000s. His talent and skill were undeniable.
However, his inability to get out of his own way likely shortchanged the success he had, and it also cost him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach the pinnacle of America’s favorite sport.
A Rough Childhood
Terry Tyree Glenn was born on July 23, 1974 in Columbus, Ohio. He never got to know his father, as he abandoned the family and was out of the picture throughout his childhood, creating a huge early obstacle for him.
Glenn was raised by his mother Donetta, and he didn’t have consistently have a place to call home early in his life, as he was shuffled from place to place within his extended family. His family was also poor, forcing them to subsist off welfare, and he remembered times when they didn’t have electricity or gas due to their financial problems.
If that wasn’t enough, he had to deal with a gruesome tragedy when he was 13. Donetta had recently met a man named Kenneth Adams, and he abducted her, beat her to death and left her body in an abandoned building.
“I was over at my aunt’s house when the police called and told us they found a body in a building and that they would call us back later on after they identified the body to see if it was her,” Glenn said. “But I had a feeling already.
“I just started thinking about what the consequences would be if she really was gone. What would I do? Where would I go from there?”
Without either of his parents around, Glenn contemplated taking his own life for a little while, but the responsibility of having to look after his younger sister brought him back from the proverbial ledge.
“At first, I didn’t want to go on,” he recalled. “I didn’t care about anything. But I had a little sister who was also affected. Who was going to take care of her?”
As a young teen, Glenn’s refuge was sports, something he found he excelled at, and it would save him in more than one way.
When he was 15, he met June Henley, who was friends with one of his cousins. Their parents, Charles and Mary, not only took Glenn in, but they also became his legal guardians.
Henley, who was one year younger than Glenn, would go on to become a standout at Brookhaven High School, and it appeared he was a good influence on Glenn.
He would go on to be a star athlete himself at Brookhaven High, playing basketball and tennis while running track. Football wasn’t totally on his radar until his sophomore year, when the head football coach saw him playing hoops and got him to head to the gridiron.
Glenn did triple duty for Brookhaven High, playing wide receiver on offense and cornerback on defense while also moonlighting as a kick returner. He helped the team advance to the semifinals of the playoffs in his senior season by catching 14 passes for 416 yards and four touchdowns while earning second-team All-district recognition.
An Outstanding Buckeye
All the while, Glenn’s dream was to play football for Ohio State University. As a teen, he did his best to get close to the school by selling soft drinks at Buckeye games.
He made his way there as a student, and as a walk-on, he became a redshirt freshman, eventually earning himself a scholarship by the spring.
His first few seasons at Ohio State were quiet. He was saddled behind Chris Sanders and Joey Galloway on the depth chart at wideout, and thus he didn’t reach 200 yards in either his freshman or sophomore years.
But as a junior in 1995, Glenn took off. With Sanders and Galloway gone, the Buckeyes turned to him, and he delivered big time.
In 12 games he caught 64 passes for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns, all of which were new Ohio State records. In one contest against the University of Pittsburgh, he feasted to the tune of 9 receptions, 253 yards, a new single-season Buckeye record, four touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in 54-14 beatdown.
Remembering Terry Glenn: His game against Pitt with 9 catches, 253 yards, 4 TD’s! RIP Buckeye Legend. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/glyPbHcEaV
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) November 21, 2017
Glenn earned consensus first-team All-America honors while also winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top wide receiver, and he led the Buckeyes all the way to the Citrus Bowl.
He had already come a long way from his brutal childhood, although there were sometimes rough reminders of where he had come from. While at Ohio State, his closest cousin was shot to death, but he didn’t let it become a distraction.
“Having a bad childhood made me strong,” said Glenn. “It made me mentally tough.”
After the conclusion of the 1995 season, Glenn made himself eligible for the NFL draft.
Stardom In New England
Glenn’s high-level speed made him a hot prospect in the 1996 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots had the seventh overall pick, and head coach Bill Parcells wanted a defensive end, such as Tony Brackens or Duane Clemons.
But Bobby Grier, the director of player personnel, wanted Glenn, and owner Robert Kraft went with Glenn. Parcells was very unhappy with the decision, and he would displace his displeasure onto the rookie.
When Glenn pulled his hamstring and was forced to miss the last few weeks of training and the season opener, Parcells disrespected him, referring to him in the media as “she.”
If the head coach was so unhappy with the drafting of Glenn that he publicly tried to take away his man card, he would quickly learn that Glenn could play.
Starting in all 15 games he appeared in during the 1996 season, he hauled in 90 passes, setting an NFL rookie record and ranking second in Patriots history, while also recording 1,132 yards and six touchdowns.
He earned a spot on the NFL All-Rookie Team and was named the second alternate for that season’s Pro Bowl.
The Patriots had been a poor offensive team the previous season, but with Glenn’s help, as well as quarterback Drew Bledsoe and running back Curtis Martin turning in Pro Bowl seasons, they won 11 games.
In Week 17 against the New York Giants, Glenn had 124 yards and a touchdown to pace the Patriots over the New York Giants, 23-22, and help them clinch first place in the AFC East.
After easy wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs, New England was headed to Super Bowl XXXI to face Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
Terry Glenn catches a 53 yard Drew Bledsoe pass in the fog. 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff. I was there and lost sight of the football. Terry didn’t. pic.twitter.com/z8xUugNA5H
— Guglielmo (@bzref) November 20, 2017
Things started out well for the Patriots, despite being heavy underdogs to Green Bay. In the first quarter, Bledsoe found Glenn for a 44-yard catch that took New England to Green Bay’s 4-yard line.
Tight end Ben Coates then scored a touchdown, and the Patriots took a 14-10 lead with 2:33 remaining in the period.
But the Packers’ defense forced Bledsoe into four interceptions, and they simply had too many weapons on offense, as they pulled away for a 35-21 win.
A Problem Patriot
Usually, when a team loses in the Super Bowl, it never makes it back, and one of the biggest reasons why is internal issues.
After Parcells didn’t want his team to draft Glenn, things went downward for the Patriots organization. Parcells was upset that Kraft wanted him to play less of a role in player personnel, and the disagreement between the two led to Parcells quitting.
To add injury to insult, he would later become the head coach of the AFC rival New York Jets.
Under new head coach Pete Carroll, things would also head south for Glenn.
He suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss Week 2 and Week 3. Later on, a hamstring injury kept him out for five games.
When Glenn was able to play, he was productive. In a Week 9 Super Bowl rematch against the Packers, he had 163 yards and just seven catches.
Although the Patriots finished first again with a 10-6 record, they would have to start the playoffs with a wild card contest against Dan Marino’s Miami Dolphins, and with Martin out of action, it put added stress on Glenn and his teammates.
The Patriots’ defense got the job done against Miami, holding it to a mere field goal in a relatively easy win.
In the divisional round, New England faced the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had reached the Super Bowl just two years earlier. Glenn played very well, notching 96 yards on just five receptions.
However, he broke his collarbone and missed most of the fourth quarter. Without him and Martin, the Patriots were seriously compromised and were able to muster just six points on two field goals in a one-point loss.
After a strong start to the 1998 campaign, Glenn hurt his hamstring again and missed four games at midseason. He bounced back strong, setting a franchise record with 193 receiving yards in a Week 14 win over Pittsburgh.
— Four Verts 🏈 (@FourVerticals_) July 27, 2021
But a broken ankle the following week prematurely ended his season. He could only sit and watch as New England lost its wild card contest against the Jaguars.
By 1999, the Patriots were a team in transition. Martin had left to reunite with Parcells in New York, and Bledsoe’s play had declined.
Glenn would be the one constant keeping the squad competitive. In 1999 he had his best season yet with 1,147 yards and four touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl nod.
In Week 4 he broke the franchise record he had set the year prior with 214 yards in a win over the Cleveland Browns.
But things started to fall apart for Glenn off the field. On November 25 he received a citation for driving more than twice the speed limit and running a vehicle off the road, and he ended up arriving three hours late for practice.
If that seemed innocuous enough, he was also arrested and accused in a civil suit of inappropriately touching a woman the previous night while trying to get inside her limousine after attending a nightclub. The two parties would eventually reach a settlement just before the case went to trial.
With his team struggling to remain in the playoff picture, Glenn missed a Week 16 contest against the Buffalo Bills because he was sick with the flu. When he didn’t show up for treatment, coach Carroll suspended him for the final game of the season versus the Baltimore Ravens.
New England lost that contest and finished the season with an 8-8 record, which wasn’t good enough to get it into the playoffs.
The team fired Carroll and replaced him with Bill Belichick, who had previously been an assistant coach under Parcells. By now, the team, other than Glenn and Bledsoe, had underwent significant turnover.
Glenn continued to have his issues in the offseason prior to the 2000 season. He tested positive for cannabis and entered the NFL’s substance abuse program, but it didn’t prevent him from being paid.
At midseason, the Patriots gave him a new contract extension worth $50 million over six years that included an $11.5 million signing bonus. It looked like a worthwhile investment, as he put up 963 yards and six touchdowns while starting in all 16 games.
But he continued to be a problem off the field. In Week 16, the team had just defeated the Bills when he asked for permission to stay in upstate New York with teammates Ty Law and Troy Brown citing poor weather that would make it difficult to fly back to Massachusetts.
He was allowed to do so as long as all three made it back to town the next morning. It turned out to be a poor decision by management.
All three ended up going to a strip club across the border in Canada, and Law was disciplined after U.S. Customs agents at the Canadian border found he was in possession of ecstasy.
It was a terrible season all-around for the Patriots, as they won just five games, and things weren’t exactly looking up for the 2001 campaign. In the spring, Glenn was charged with assault and battery after an altercation with a woman who was the mother of his 5-year-old son.
Glenn pleaded innocent, and the woman later recanted, but it left him scarred in terms of public perception. The Patriots responded by withholding $1 million of his signing bonus, and in time they would end up withholding a total of $10 million from him.
Then in August, he was suspended by the league for the first four games of the season after missing a mandatory drug test. He subsequently left training camp, and the team let his agent know he had five days to return or he would be risking more suspension.
In the end, Glenn played in four games that season, but after injuring his hamstring, a series of incidents led Belichick to deactivate him for the rest of the season.
It was a shame, because that was the year a little-heralded second-year QB named Tom Brady replaced an injured Bledsoe and led New England to a Cinderella run that culminated with a Super Bowl win over the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams.
The team decided to not give Glenn a world championship ring.
Glenn did, however, manage to catch Brady’s first-ever touchdown pass in the NFL.
Tom Brady’s first career TD pass to Terry Glenn.
RIP to this legend pic.twitter.com/0RzsKoWlyY
— Patriots Militia (@PatsMilitia) November 20, 2017
Playing With The Packers And Running With The ‘Boys
Weeks after winning the Super Bowl, New England traded Glenn to the Green Bay Packers, allowing him to continue to play for a winning team.
The Packers were coming off a 12-4 season, and he would have the benefit of catching passes from Favre while having Pro Bowlers Donald Driver and Ahman Green to take the pressure off him.
Despite suffering two knee injuries during training camp, Glenn had a productive year, catching 56 passes for 817 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers finished 12-4 and entered the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons.
But with Glenn suffering an injury during the contest, Green Bay just didn’t have the horses to hang with Atlanta. it was a disastrous outing for the Packers, as they lost 27-7 at Lambeau Field, their first-ever postseason loss at their hallowed home field.
He was then traded to the Dallas Cowboys, which reunited him with not only Parcells, his old head coach, but also Joey Galloway, his old college teammate.
The Cowboys had been rebuilding ever since the departures of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, but with Glenn posting 754 yards and five touchdowns in 2003, they made the playoffs for the first time in four years, where they got blown out by the Carolina Panthers.
Dallas regressed in 2004, as Glenn sprained his right foot in Week 7 and missed the rest of the season.
But in 2005, the Cowboys looked to turn things around by bringing in Bledsoe. Although he was now 33 years of age, he turned in a solid season and helped Glenn have a strong year himself with 1,136 yards and seven touchdowns.
— Sohe Coop (@SoheCoop) December 21, 2021
Still, the team just narrowly missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
The Cowboys had high hopes for the 2006 campaign. New starting QB Tony Romo made the Pro Bowl, while the team also added mercurial wideout Terrell Owens.
Despite now being 32, Glenn showed no signs of slowing down, recording 1,047 yards and six touchdowns. The team had just shown its belief in him by giving him a five-year, $20 million contract extension.
With a 9-7 record, Dallas returned to the playoffs and played the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round. Things were looking good for the Cowboys, as they forged a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
After Seattle turned the ball over on downs, Glenn caught a short pass from Romo, but he subsequently fumbled the ball, and the Seahawks recovered the ball in their own end zone for what was ruled a safety.
Seattle kept possession afterward and scored a touchdown, handing Dallas a heartbreaking 21-20 defeat.
Prior to the 2007 season, Glenn underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and did not play until the season finale at the Washington Redskins in which he did not log any stats.
After a 13-3 regular season, Dallas looked to the playoffs with excitement, as it had gotten the top seed in the NFC.
In the divisional round against the New York Giants, Dallas fell behind by four early in the fourth quarter of a see-saw contest. But it couldn’t move the chains enough, and with nine seconds left, Romo threw a pass in Glenn’s direction in the endzone.
For a moment, it looked like he got a grip on the ball, but Giants defensive back R. W. McQuarters picked it off, giving Dallas another heartbreaking playoff setback.
That would be it for Glenn, as the Cowboys released him the following July due to his ailing knee.
A Downward Spiral
If football saved Glenn from a murky future, he would be lost without it once his career ended.
In 2009, he was at a Dallas-area hotel when someone called authorities, alleging that Glenn was intoxicated, disoriented and naked.
Police arrested him for public intoxication and misdemeanor possession of cannabis. He was also found to have outstanding traffic-related warrants, and he bonded out the next morning.
It was his third arrest, following the assault charge he faced in 2001 and a 2005 incident in which he urinated in the parking lot of a Jack In The Box while intoxicated.
Just months later, Glenn would be placed in handcuffs again, this time for auto theft. He had rented a Chevrolet Suburban from a Dallas-area National Rent A Car and hadn’t returned it several weeks later.
Then in early 2011, Glenn was arrested yet again for driving while intoxicated and marijuana possession.
In the meanwhile, he was making some attempts to get his life on the right track. He worked on several projects for charity with his girlfriend, while looking to be a strong, present father to his seven children.
Glenn and his beloved got engaged, but the two called it off in 2007 while remaining friends.
Years later, he got engaged again. He and his flame were heading down Highway 114 in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex just after midnight one evening when their vehicle hit a concrete barrier and rolled over.
Glenn’s fiance only had slight injuries, but Glenn himself was killed. An autopsy revealed that he had been intoxicated and that his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
His former teammates and coaches were all shocked by the news. Coach Belichick called him “a good person with good intentions and a good heart,” while Bledsoe thought that Glenn was putting his demons behind him as he got older.
Terry Glenn’s life was the tragic, bittersweet story of a man who overcame great adversity as a child to become a valuable NFL player. But in the end, perhaps he was only able to keep the resulting demons at bay for a period of time before they did him in.