Duty…honor…country…commitment…service – all these military terms play a significant role in explaining Air Force veteran and All-America football defenseman Chad Hennings’ many accomplishments.
His remarkable sense of leadership, poise and desire to give back have helped him excel as an All-America defensive lineman at Air Force Academy, a standout and Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys from 1993-2001 and 2007 inductee into the NFF College Hall of Fame.
But his most impressive ledger may have come in community service and humanitarian contributions.
Take the Happy Hill Farm Academy in Granbury, Texas. He is chairman of the board of the 35-year-old farm and educational center where neglected or abused kids ages 6-18 go for a family environment and exemplary education after being “passed around” to various foster families. The success stories and commitment of the students, administrators and teachers are right up Hennings’ alley.
Hennings’ journey began with his application and acceptance at Air Force where he starred from 1983-87, earning the 1987 Outland Trophy as the country’s most outstanding lineman. Fully aware of the post-AFA duties, including a four-year minimum stint in the active Air Force, Hennings would go on to serve faithfully after graduation. He piloted an A-10 Thunderbolt, which barely contained his 6-foot-6 frame, on 45 humanitarian missions to assist Kurdish refugee families in Iraq, receiving numerous medals and commendations for his meritorious service.
His military commitment delayed his march to the NFL, but it did not undermine his success in the league as he participated on three Super Bowl teams with the Cowboys. Teammates admired his leadership, willingness to sacrifice personal goals for team objectives, honesty with the news media, and a great sense of community concern.
His desire to give back to the armed services, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and people worldwide has attracted international attention, but Hennings humbly goes about his civic ways. He even found time to write a book, It Takes Commitment, to express his views on responsibility and commitment to family, friends and community.
“”I have experienced all kinds of leadership styles in the military and on the football field,” Hennings explained. “I have had squadron commanders that I would have followed into combat anytime, any place. I also have had commanders who they were lucky that their troops did not shoot them in the back when their heads were turned.
“It was the same thing on the football field,” he continued. “There were the guys who worked me to the point I couldn’t give any more; yet, they found a way to motivate me to dig deeper and give something I did not think I had. And then there were the guys who couldn’t motivate a man dying from dehydration to take a drink.”
The gracious All-America player also is hoping to attend the 2012 Armed Forces Bell Helicopter Bowl Dec. 29 and see history as Air Force competes in a record sixth consecutive bowl game – just ahead of the 1989-92 and 1989-92 previous record streaks by
“I am a much better person because of football,” he related. “My priorities have been faith, family and football, and I have a greater appreciation for the game after going into private business fulltime. The concepts of team and life lessons stay with you for a lifetime. Playing college football was a dream-come-true, and I feel fortunate to have had so many great experiences at Air Force and in pro football afterward.”
Hennings accomplishments even extend into the business world as president of Hennings Management Corporation, a leading marketing and consulting company and as a principal in TRW, a rock retaining wall business, yet he still finds time to stay active in patriotic ways after graduation from the academy. He has spoken to several Congressional forums, national convocations and symposia on life and education at the Air Force Academy, as well as serving as the national spokesperson for Today’s Military recruitment campaign, chair of Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) Service Academy Selection Board, and a trustee on the Air Force Falcon Foundation. His speeches emphasize duty, honor, commitment, and patriotism, and in his many motivational speeches to civic, church and government groups, he urges support for Happy Hill Farm Academy, the armed services, USO, Wingmen Ministries (which he founded), and several other key foundations.
As his enviable scholar-athlete achievements, including being named a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America and induction into the ESPN the Magazine CoSIDA Academic Hall of Fame, continue to motivate youngsters around the country to do their utmost in the classroom and the gridiron, he remains a committed family man to his wife Tammy and children Chase and Brenna.
“Balance is required in our lives physically, mentally, in our family relationships, and through community involvement,” Hennings explained. “Our spiritual values and character become the compass that directs us down our chosen paths of life.”