Charlie Hennigan: The Man with the Hands

By DILLON HOLLOWAY

Though his pro football career began 60 years ago, Charlie Hennigan was one of the most sure-handed receivers to ever play the sport.

Hennigan as an Oilers rookie

Although his career was relatively short, the Minden, La., native (born March 19, 1935) amassed a litany of records that stood for several decades and some that still stand today.

Two of his most outstanding marks were the 272 receiving yards in a single game and the most yards in a calendar month with 822 in October 1961.

Hennigan also led the AFL in receiving yards with 1,546 for the 1964 season.

  • His career accolades are as follows:
  • 2-time AFL champion (1960, 1961)
  • 5-time AFL All-Star (1961–1965)
  • 4-time First-team All-AFL (1961–1964)
  • American Football League All-Time Team
  • 1978 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee

Although he began attending college at LSU on a track scholarship, Hennigan felt the itch to utilize his speed on the gridiron.

He transferred to Northwestern (La.) State University, then called Northwestern State College, where he became a star for the team.

He was an All-Gulf States Conference halfback and also played cornerback, helping the Demons win the 1957 and 1958 GSC championships.

After his college career, Hennigan served as a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant, then a teacher and coach at Jonesboro-Hodge (La.) High School after a failed tryout for the Canadian Football League.

He was so determined to not go back to his teaching job, he kept his annual teaching pay stub of $2,700 in his helmet as motivation to stick to football.

Clearly, that motivational technique worked well, as Hennigan landed a roster spot that catapulted him into stardom for the Oilers.

Hennigan hauls in a pass against the Denver Broncos.

Hennigan is entrenched in Oilers’ lore as he scored the very first touchdown in franchise history.

His impact as a rookie was immediate, as he amassed 722 yards and six touchdowns on 44 receptions en route to helping the Oilers capture the first AFL championship.

Hennigan followed that with an outstanding second-year campaign, racking up 1,746 yards and 12 touchdowns on 82 receptions.

Hennigan (left) poses with fellow Oilers legend and receiver Bill Groman.

By the time Hennigan retired, he had hauled in 410 receptions for 6,823 yards, averaging 16.6 yards per catch over his seven-year career with the Oilers.

In 1967, Hennigan received his doctor of education degree from the University of Houston.

Later, he operated an educational tutoring service in Shreveport and worked with prisoners seeking the General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

Hennigan passed away on December 20, 2017, at age 82.

Dillon Holloway is a native Mississippian currently residing in central Oklahoma. He is a rabid football fan and a historian of the sport. He is a husband, a military officer, volunteer teacher and football coach, and emerging guest speaker. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in aerospace studies. He played football from pee-wee through high school, winning the 2A Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship and was named first-team all-district guard in 2011. Since his first football practice, he has always made the sport a part of his life in some fashion, and writing for Miss Ya Blue! allows him to continue to do so.

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