Terry Glenn, who overcame a troubled upbringing in Columbus, then parlayed a sensational football season at Ohio State into a 12-year NFL career, died early Monday morning as the result of a one-car crash in Irving, Texas.
The 43-year-old Glenn died shortly before 1 a.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Irving police are investigating the cause of the wreck at 12:18 a.m. on eastbound Highway 114, said Chelsey Jones, a police department spokeswoman.
Glenn, who lived in the Dallas area, was driving when the vehicle left the highway, struck a concrete barrier and rolled, authorities said. Glenn was ejected. Jones said Glenn’s fiancée was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Her name and further details weren’t released.
In high school, Glenn was part of a renowned Brookhaven team that became the first City League team to advance to a state semifinal in football. Glenn was a two-way player as a receiver and defensive back for Bearcats teams that included standouts such as Charles “June” Henley, Marlon Kerner, Jayson and Anthony Gwinn and Steven Ayers.
Anthony Gwinn said he collapsed at work in Columbus when relayed the news of his best friend.
“Terry was like the big brother I lost,” Gwinn said, referring to the death of his older brother Jayson, who also died in a car accident, in December 1993.
“We were super tight. I’m in absolute shock. He was really doing great things with his life helping foster kids in Dallas and here in Columbus, mentoring young kids in central Ohio. What a huge loss.”
Former Brookhaven coach Gregg Miller served as a surrogate father of sorts for Glenn, who was raised in a single-parent home until his mother was murdered when he was 13.
“He was passed along from family to family until high school when the Henleys took him in,” Miller said. “Terry didn’t play football as a freshman. I found him playing basketball and went after him because he was such a great athlete. That whole group became real close. It was a special time at Brookhaven.”
Glenn finished a credit short of graduating with his high school class, limiting his college recruitment. After finishing summer school, he was set to walk on at Bowling Green until Ohio State made him the same offer.
“As soon as he got on campus, coach (John) Cooper recognized the kind of talent he had and commented to me he’d be on scholarship as soon as one opened up,” Miller said.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder redshirted his first season at OSU, then had two nondescript seasons as a reserve on a Buckeyes team that featured Joey Galloway and Chris Sanders as receivers. Glenn had 15 catches for 266 yards in the 1993 and ’94 seasons combined.
As a junior in 1995, however, Glenn transformed into one of the key components for an Ohio State offense that set numerous single-season records with running back Eddie George and quarterback Bob Hoying.
Glenn had 64 catches for 1,411 yards, at the time a single-season school yardage record and still the second-best total in OSU history. He also had 17 touchdowns that year, a mark that still stands, and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
“He had speed, good hands, great leaping ability, the whole package,” Cooper said Monday. “I can’t imagine a wide receiver with more talent than Terry Glenn had.”
Cooper said he hadn’t seen Glenn in probably 10 years, but that didn’t lessen the memories he had of a player who overcame difficult circumstances to star like few receivers before him at Ohio State.
“Every night when I go to bed that play he made against Notre Dame pops into my head,” Cooper said.
He referred to a curl route that Glenn ran, catching a pass from Hoying before turning up the field and outrunning the Notre Dame defenders for the touchdown that cracked open the first meeting between the two schools since 1936.
“I was just devastated when I heard the news he was killed,” Cooper said. “Holy cow, I couldn’t believe it.”
Glenn was a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1996, the No. 7 selection overall. He had a career-high 90 catches as a rookie for 1,132 yards — one of four 1,000-yard seasons in his pro career.
Glenn played six seasons in New England and one in Green Bay before finishing his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He finished his career with 593 catches for 8,823 yards and 44 touchdowns.
After his professional career, Glenn relocated to the Dallas area where he championed a foundation, 83 Kids, that raised money to build homes for foster children. Glenn and Anthony Gwinn also had a foundation together in Columbus.
Miller said Glenn always sent him greeting cards for Father’s Day and holidays and had recently invited him to Dallas to play in a charity golf outing.
“Terry had really gotten his life together and he was in a really good place doing something that was close to his heart,” Miller said. “It’s a real shame that he didn’t get to see it through.”
Dispatch reporters Steve Blackledge and Tim May contributed to this story.