Cody Hendricks was told he would never play football again.
That person obviously didn’t know Hendricks and the fierce determination within him. Hendricks, a sophomore at Gavilan College, has earned a scholarship to play football at Missouri Valley, a NAIA program.
“There were times I accepted the fact that I would never play again,” said Hendricks, the former San Benito High standout who signed his letter of intent at Gavilan on Wednesday. “It was pretty depressing for a while.”
No kidding. Hendricks broke his wrist once and collarbone twice, all within a two-year span starting in 2012. The collarbone breaks were serious enough that one doctor told him his football career was over.
“There were definitely tears when you hear you’re never going to play again,” he said.
After graduating from San Benito High in 2011, Hendricks went to Washington State University, where he initially made the team as a walk-on only to get cut due to poor grades.
“Note to self, lesson learned,” said Hendricks, who then enrolled at Monterey Peninsula College in 2012.
The 5-foot-11, 240-pound Hendricks played the entire 2012 season with a broken wrist, but his bouts with adversity were only beginning. Hendricks suffered two broken collarbones within a two-month span beginning in January 2013.
Hendricks said the second break was a result of his collarbone not healing properly from the initial break.
“When I broke the collarbone the first time, I saw a doctor in Monterey who said I would never play again,” he said. “I was devastated, but I still thought I could come back from it because it was only a collarbone, which I also broke as a kid. But it never healed properly, and after the second break, I was thinking, ‘Maybe he (the doctor) is right.’ I started to have doubts that I would ever play again.”
Hendricks had to sit out the 2013 season, his future in limbo. However, Hendricks never called it quits because of the unwavering support he received from his parents, David and Yvonne, who always believed in their son and never let him lose hope.
Before Hendricks underwent surgery to repair the collarbone in March 2013, he and his parents went to the Ross Dress For Less store in Gilroy to do some window shopping.
Hendricks went to the shoe section and saw a pair of red and white Nike cleats that reminded him of his glorious high school days at San Benito.
There was only one pair, a size 12, which happened to be Hendricks’ shoe size. The comeback was on.
“Seeing the cleats at first brought back some happy memories of my high school days,” he said. “They were so cool, and yet moments later because of the situation I was in, it kind of upset me because I wanted to wear cleats and play again. My parents buying those cleats for me really gave me motivation. I thought to myself, ‘You know what? I’ll figure this out somehow.’”
Hendricks figured it out, all right. Although he was a starting fullback at Monterey Peninsula College, Hendricks also had some spot time at linebacker, running back and tight end.
However, Hendricks decided to enroll at Gavilan in January 2014 for financial reasons. Finally healthy for the first time in two years, Hendricks had a solid season for the Rams, starting every game at inside linebacker.
Hendricks credited Gavilan’s linebackers coach, Rowen Tupuibao, for helping him develop the skills and instincts needed to excel at the position. A 2011 San Benito High graduate, Hendricks earned the distinction of being one of the Haybalers’ best two-way players in the last decade. Hendricks played fullback and linebacker in a terrific senior season, leading the team with 946 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 149 carries.
Defensively, Hendricks had 58 tackles and 2.5 sacks, a stellar all-around performance on a team that doesn’t often play athletes two ways. The 58 tackles were good for fifth best on the team, remarkable when you consider the fact that Hendricks didn’t start playing linebacker until the middle of the season, after injuries and ineligibility issues shortened San Benito’s roster.
“I think he was very reliable,” Balers coach Chris Cameron told the Free Lance in a Dec. 7, 2010 article. “He carried a lot of the load for us, carried the football, ran stuff correctly and did stuff he was supposed to do. He was pretty reliable to me. Those are all good things.”
Hendricks had tremendous success on the gridiron despite never having played a down of football until the eighth grade.
“The president of the Gilroy Browns (Pop Warner team) back then happened to be working at the same place as my dad, and he was talking to my dad about needing to fill the roster for his (junior) midgets team,” said Hendricks, who grew up racing dirt bikes year-round. “I think he just needed a couple of bodies to fill the roster. From there I went to a football camp at Gavilan, and I liked it and started playing from there.”
If Hendricks’ story ended with him having not been offered a scholarship from four-year schools, it would have been one of an athlete who overcame a grim prognosis to return to the field and become an impact player at the junior college level.
However, Hendricks’ journey takes on epic proportions when you consider how he was able to earn a scholarship to continue playing the game he considers his No. 1 passion in life.
Having received no interest from any school upon the season’s completion, Hendricks attacked the recruiting process in the same way he went after offensive players on the field: with purpose and tenacity.
Hendricks was confident he had the talent and ability to earn a scholarship, and he had a recruiting profile on the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) website, which lists every school in the nation that is offering a scholarship.
“I sent out 4,000 e-mails in a week,” Hendricks said. “A couple of days later, I started to get calls left and right and you start to realize that it’s true if you put yourself out there, someone will find you.”
Hendricks said he had two or three other scholarship offers, but Missouri Valley was the first school that contacted him and showed the most interest throughout the recruiting process.
Hendricks credits his parents for keeping him positive and on the right path. David and Yvonne wouldn’t let their son get too down, and that’s why Hendricks beamed with pride when he showed his parents the scholarship offer from Missouri Valley.
After failing in the classroom at Washington State, Hendricks said he has a cumulative 3.67 GPA at Gavilan. He’s already earned his associate’s degree, and is taking one class this semester that will go towards earning his bachelor’s at Missouri Valley.
“A lot of maturity comes with age,” he said. “You don’t realize it until you’re older, but my parents were right about every single thing they said to me growing up. I finally admitted to them they were right about everything, and that’s why it was such a great feeling when I could show them my scholarship offer. They’ve done everything to get me prepared to handle things my whole life, and now it’s my turn to show them just how much they mean to me.”
Cody Hendricks was told he would never play football again.