From Combat Missions in Iraq to Three Super Bowl Wins with the Dallas Cowboys: A Hero’s Journey

FORMER NFL defensive tackle Chad Hennings had flown 45 combat missions with the US Air Force – and then won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.

The former NFL star had such an incredible double life that he even flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II over Northern Iraq and won a Super Bowl within the same calendar year.

Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys3

Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas CowboysCredit: Getty

Prior to the NFL career, Hennings served in the US Air Force3

Prior to the NFL career, Hennings served in the US Air ForceCredit: YouTube/CBS TEXAS

Hennings flew in 45 combat missions over northern Iraq3

Hennings flew in 45 combat missions over northern IraqCredit: YouTube/CBS TEXAS

When the Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII in January 1993, the traditional pregame flyover had a different meaning for Hennings.

“It was emotional for me,” he recalled.

“The lessons I learned in the military, about character and morality and taking care of your brothers can never be replaced.

Who Is Chad Hennings? The Story Of A Legend In The Air And On The Field

“It didn’t make dealing with Charles Haley or Michael Irvin all that difficult.”

The talented high school star was recruited by a number of top college football programs but he decided to attend the United States Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs, in 1984.

After graduating, the 6-foot-6, 272-pounder was selected by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1988 NFL Draft.

But before he could play in the NFL, Hennings had to first fulfill his military commitment, a move that was initially hard to accept.

“I wouldn’t say there were regrets, [but] it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete,” Hennings said.

Hennings was stationed in the United Kingdom and deployed twice to the Persian Gulf, flying in 45 combat sorties in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort, an international relief effort after the Gulf War.

His job when supplies were being dropped to the Kurds in northern Iraq was to make sure nobody shot at the relief planes.

He was twice awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal, a humanitarian award, and an Outstanding Unit Award for his actions in the service.

After leaving the active-duty Air Force in April 1992 and transitioning to the Air Force Reserve, Hennings resumed his NFL career with the Cowboys.

“It was extremely stressful, initially transitioning in ‘92, because I’m leaving one career for another,” he said.

“I’m moving from one continent to another, taking on a whole new different position.

“There were a lot of just stress factors there, and it wasn’t assured that I would make the team.”

In his first season with the Cowboys, he won a Super Bowl ring, something he said was “pretty surreal.”

Whenever the team would take a break they would huddle around Hennings and ask him to tell them more war stories.

“My experience is that most football players like the military,” he said.

“They could sit and listen to me talk about it all day.”

Hennings went on to have a nine-year career with the Cowboys, playing in 119 games, recording 27.5 sacks, and winning three Super Bowls.

Hennings says the NFL was similar to the military in a number of ways.

“A lot of the phrases are the same. In the trenches. It’s a battle. There’s a war going on,” he said.

“Although I must say there’s a lot less actual physical risk involved in football.

“And the chain of command is kind of similar. Coach [Jimmy] Johnson is our Chief of Staff. Mr. [Jerry] Jones is our Commander in Chief.

“Our coaches are our generals. The veterans are our captains. And guys like me, we’re the lowly grunts.”

Now 57, Hennings works in commercial real estate and is a Christian motivational speaker and author.

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