Thomas Henderson: ‘Could Be Underlying Mental Disease’

Before there was Josh Hamilton, there was Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. The former NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champion battled drug and alcohol addiction throughout his career, from 1975 to 1981. Now 62, he has a pretty good idea of what Hamilton is going through – and a theory as to why the Angels are taking such a hard-line stance against their struggling outfielder.

“They could be playing the role (that) his parents should have played at some point,” Henderson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They’re giving him some consequences. Sometimes consequences work in these types of situations. When I was playing the game, there was not testing and there was no way to go and report yourself. You sort of just showed up at the locker room smelling like a barrel of whiskey, and people knew that maybe something was wrong with you.”

Henderson has been sober for 32 years, but he knows what it means to be in the abyss.

“When I look back at those last few years when I was really into the cocaine and whatever else I could get my hands on, I do believe there was some mental illness going on too, some stuff going on inside of me that I didn’t want to feel,” Henderson said. “In other words, I wanted to be in an altered state. It didn’t matter if I smoked a joint, took a shot of whiskey, did a line of cocaine – I just didn’t want to be Thomas ‘Normal’ Henderson sometimes. I don’t know where that comes from.

“And so, as we look at people (like Josh Hamilton and Josh Gordon), there will be consequences if (they don’t) change their) behavior,” Henderson continued. “If you’re doing drugs (and) alcohol and there are rules against that, then there could be consequences. So for Josh Hamilton, (that) beautiful talent – there was a time when Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson was a beautiful talent.”

Hamilton, a former Pro Bowler, snorted cocaine during games and was eventually waived by coach Tom Landry.

“Tom Landry fired me and broke my heart,” Henderson said. “Just broke me in half. Forget about the casual and social use. I went ballistic with drugs and alcohol. So consequences are part of this thing, and it’s too bad it has to come from the Angels. It’s too bad it has to come from his employer.”

But it might help Hamilton in the long run. At some point, Henderson realized he had to make a change. He realized that “Hollywood” needed to go away.

“I embarrassed my family,” Henderson said. “I got arrested out there in California. There always comes consequences. Trouble is coming if you keep maintaining relationships with alcohol and drugs. But with drinking and drugging, I do know something about this. I’ve talked with men at all levels – from celebrities on television to athletes – (and told them) that there was a separation for me, that Hollywood was a damn fool, and basically, I had to kill him. But it was through (a) psychiatrist. It was through medications. It was through treatment. It was through surrender, too.

“But let’s not forget that when we start seeing things like this that there could also be some underlying mental disease,” Henderson continued. “We sit here on radio and television and the columns are gong to be written, but we don’t really know what’s going on between the ears of these men, who, time after time with great opportunities with great organizations – why do they mess it up? You go, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I had no one to ask me that question, but I get to do that today with some of the men that have come to me.

“That’s why I can’t say anything bad about Josh Hamilton or Josh Gordon or those guys because they may knock on my door and I have to be a neutral arbiter and somebody who will sit down and talk to them and tell them the truth. Just sort of tell them, ‘This is where you’re headed. Do you really want to go there?’”

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