William Henderson has been one of my favorite all-time players … not only did he play for more than a decade – and play at the highest level – but he did so without complaint and with the kind of dedication that befits a Green Bay Packer.
Marco Rivera, also a silent, effective player who did his job almost as the invisible man, carried out his job like he was supposed to … unseen. Rarely did his number get called because of a penalty … never was he called out for dirty play. He melded with one of the best offensive lines ever to hit the field for the Packers.
That’s why those two former Packers were honored Saturday night and inducted into the prestigious Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
As the only National Football League team to have a Hall of Fame to honor players from its long history, the Packers have rightly inducted players who were legends at Lambeau, but may have not been inducted into the Hall at Canton. Jerry Kramer comes to mind, but there have been many, many others.
Larry Beightol, Rivera’s position coach for several years was also his presenter Saturday, and though he’s coached many linemen through his years with several teams, he said he can’t think of one who was better than Rivera.
“It was because of his heart, what he had inside, that made Marco an outstanding football player,” Beightol said. “They don’t come any better than this guy and I mean that. Without a question, he is one of the best if not the very best offensive linemen I ever had. This guy here is very, very special.”
And playing alongside Brett Favre was also a great motivator for both men, especially Rivera, who suffered many injuries during his time in Green Bay, but kept on playing because he just couldn’t look Favre in the eye and say he was hurt.
“How can you look at him in the eye and say, ‘Oh, Brett, I have a torn MCL. I think I’m just going to take the game off?’ ” Rivera said prior to his induction. “You could go ahead and lose that game because the right guard doesn’t play well. I didn’t want that to happen.”
Instead, Rivera worked side-by-side with a line that not only protected Favre so that he could continue to rack up consecutive games played, but they opened holes for Ahman Green who tallied six consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons … a franchise record.
And helping to lead the way from the fullback position in front of Green was none other than Henderson. It was his crushing blocks that helped open many a holes for Green, the shifty, speedy running back who, though he had a propensity for fumbling, helped a Green Bay offense to several winning seasons in the 2000s.
At the news conference prior to the induction ceremony Saturday night, Henderson got a bit choked up in describing what he was about the experience:
“It’s great to represent the Green Bay Packers and … the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. It’s kind of crazy to say that. Every time I come back now, I’m representing so many decades of guys willing to do whatever it takes.”
What I liked about Henderson was his desire and dedication to the game.
Often a safety valve for Favre with 320 career receptions for 2,409 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 seasons, he also rushed 123 times in his career. But it was his design to inflict crushing lead blocks, not to score touchdowns.
“On that first hit, my head was ringing and my body was numb. That meant nobody could hurt me,” Henderson said. “I tried to knock them out. Special teams, offense, defense, whatever. I was going to make contact with someone.”
And it was usually those hits that put grass stains on the backsides of defensive players.
Both players left a lasting impression on the opponents they faced each week … but mostly they have left fond memories for their teammates, and most importantly their legions of fans who could only smile along with them this weekend as they were honored and placed into immortality for all they have done.
Thanks William and Marco … and congratulations.