HOUSTON (NSU) - Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame 1978 inductee Charlie Hennigan, a Northwestern State graduate who still holds two NFL receiving records and is in the top three of three more, passed away Wednesday at age 82.
Visitation will be held Friday from 4:30-5 at Darst Funeral Home (796 Russell Palmer Road) in Kingwood, Texas, with a celebration of life at 5 p.m. A graveside service will be Saturday at 3 p.m. in Bienville at the Campground Cemetery on La. Hwy. 507.
He was the father of seven: sons Chuck, Stephen, James and Taylor, and daughters Jordan, Shalom and Faith. He had two brothers, Ronnie and David Hennigan, and a sister, Rev. Sharon Hennigan Waters.
Hennigan starred for the Houston Oilers from 1960-66 after he and college teammate Charlie Tolar, also a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member, earned roster spots out of an open tryout. Hennigan made the All-Time All-American Football League Team and was along with Tolar chosen by fan vote as a member of the Oilers’ 25th anniversary All-Time Team.
A five-time AFL All-Star, Hennigan caught 410 passes for 6,823 receiving yards for the Oilers, scoring 51 touchdowns. One was the first in Oilers’ history, a 43-yard pass from George Blanda against the Los Angeles Raiders. He helped football and track teams at Northwestern State win a combined five Gulf States Conference championships and was enshrined in the university’s N-Club Hall of Fame in 1973.
A native of Bienville who played football and ran track at Minden High School, he still holds NFL records with three games of at least 200 yards receiving, in his astounding 1961 season, and seven consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving that season. He set a pro single-season receiving record with 1,746 yards that still ranks third, topped only by Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice (1,848 in 1995) and Isaac Bruce (1,781, also in 1995).
In 1961, Hennigan had 82 receptions and 12 touchdowns in a 14-game season, averaging 21.3 yards per catch and 124 yards per game.
Hennigan is one of only four receivers in pro history to have four or more 200-yard receiving games. He ranks in a tie for second with Rice and Don Hutson, also a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, with four 200-yard outings in their careers. Lance Alworth had five.
For 34 years, he held the NFL record for most games with 100 receiving yards in a season (10), topped only by Pro Football Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin (11) in 1995.
In a column for Talk of Fame Network last year, veteran sportswriter Rick Gosselin noted Hennigan’s impact on pro football.
“You can say Bob Hayes changed the way the game is played with his speed. You can say Charley Taylor changed the way the game is played with his power. And you can say Jerry Rice changed the way the game is played with his precision and grace. But no wide receiver changed the way the game is played like Charlie Hennigan,” wrote Gosselin.
Amy Adams Strunk, controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans, released a statement on Hennigan. Her father, Bud Adams, was the Oilers’ owner.
“He was one of the finest players in our franchise’s history and a key component to our early championship teams, who still holds many of our receiving records. My father was particularly fond of Charlie, and I have enjoyed getting to know him through the years. His contributions to our team will never be forgotten,” she said.
Hennigan helped lead the Oilers to AFL championships in 1960 and 1961, and a championship game appearance in 1962. He had 26 100-yard receiving games in his Oilers career.
Dr. Hennigan earned his doctorate in education in 1967 from the University of Houston. He received bachelors (1958) and masters (1961) degrees in education from Northwestern State.
At Minden, he made the All-North Louisiana team in football and track, and was two-time state champion in the 880-yard run. He signed a track scholarship with LSU and was part of the Tigers’ 1954 Southeastern Conference championship mile relay team.
Hennigan wanted to play football, but wasn’t given that opportunity at LSU, so he transferred to Northwestern. He was an All-Gulf States Conference halfback and also played cornerback, helping the Demons win the 1957 and 1958 GSC championships.
He ran the 100-yard dash in 9.7 and set the school record of 47.2 in the 400-yard dash that stood for 19 years. Hennigan helped the Demons win GSC track and field championships in 1955, 1956 and 1957, falling a half-point shy of another in 1958 under coach Walter Ledet, also a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member.
Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, a Northwestern product, gives Hennigan much credit for helping him hone his pass catching stills. Smith was a 10th-round 1963 NFL Draft pick who worked with Hennigan at Camp Touchdown for Boys in Bryceland, near his hometown, a live-in summer camp for boys ages 7-14 from 1962-65.
Hennigan was a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant and a teacher and coach at Jonesboro-Hodge High School after a failed tryout in the Canadian Football League at the end of his college career.
He founded the Hennigan Institute, a learning center, in Houston. Hennigan designed and implemented counseling and educational programs for court-designated delinquent students, edited a phonetic reading program aimed for junior high students, and produced a 10-module self-discovery and goal-setting course entitled “Set Yourself Free.”
He published one book, a work of fiction entitled “Slick,” in 1975.