by Daniel Olsen
Since February is Black History Month, we will be focusing on the great black players in the sports history of the Beehive State. This week’s feature is Manny Hendrix.
Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Charlie Ward are three of the more well-known two-sport athletes in history. However, the average sports fan might not remember the Utah basketball and NFL player Manny Hendrix. Hendrix was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame not just for his feats on the Utes basketball team, but for his successful career with the Dallas Cowboys after college.
Hendrix was born on October 20, 1964 in Phoenix, Arizona. He lived his whole childhood there and attended South Mountain High School. He was an All-State honoree in both football and basketball and also ran track and field.
The only school to recruit him for basketball was the University of Utah. Hendrix seized that opportunity. Although he didn’t have the size of the average basketball player, he was quite the athletic guard at 5’10”. His coach at the time, Lynn Archibald, helped him become a great leader for the team. He was a four-year starter for the Runnin’ Utes, a college basketball team that competed in the Western Athletic Conference at the time.
Hendrix finished his career with two All-WAC honorable-mention teams and second-team All-WAC in his senior year. Although he didn’t have his number retired, Hendrix was one of the best players in school history not to receive those honors. He did help the Utes get to the Sweet 16 in 1983 and beat the powerhouse UCLA Bruins in the process.
Hendrix was clutch when it came to game-winning shots in the WAC Conference tournament. He hit back-to-back game-winning shots, with the most memorable one being against Wyoming. Although that 1985 season would end with a heartbreaking overtime loss to UTEP, it was still a memorable one for many.
In 1986, the Utes lost to San Diego State in the conference tournament but their record spoke for itself. They went 20-10 and finished third in the WAC with a win over a #15 nationally-ranked UTEP team. This must have been a great revenge game to finally beat the powerhouse team that beat them in overtime the year before. The Utes entered the NCAA tournament as a #14 seed and were soundly defeated by the favored North Carolina Tar Heels.
Hendrix finished his Ute career as a top-ten scorer and passer in team history at the time. He finished with 1,493 points and 409 assists. In the present day, he is still thirteenth in scoring and fifth in assists.
How ‘bout them Cowboys
The elite speed that helped Hendrix beat top football athletes at the time in friendly races also helped him in his journey to play in the NFL. The Cowboys weren’t new to this rodeo. They had already won two Super Bowls (VI and XII) and had experience in converting basketball players to the gridiron. Cornell Green, Percy Howard, Ron Howard, and Ken Johnson were just a few examples.
Hendrix played for the Cowboys for six seasons at the cornerback position. He increased his production almost every year. He recorded a total of 158 tackles in his first five years before being replaced as the starter in the 1991 season. He also had a few memorable fumble recoveries and interceptions in his career.
After the NFL
Although Hendrix had his football career cut short, he had some memorable games and even had some starts at cornerback. He helped pave the way for the Cowboys to win three more Super Bowls in the 90s. He and other two-sport athletes around that time paved the way for a superstar cornerback and baseball player like Sanders to become the Primetime we remember him as.
Hendrix was inducted into the Ute Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Utah Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. As Karl Malone was honored as a Pioneer for the Jazz last week, Hendrix is honored as a pioneer of two-way athletes. He was a Ute basketball player in college, a Cowboy in the NFL and a legend in life.