The Pittsburgh Steelers and their Pro Bowl cornerback Rod Woodson didn’t know and could hardly see what hit them on the first play of their January 1997 AFC Divisional playoff game at fog-enveloped Foxboro Stadium.
That’s when New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe connected with rookie first-round draft pick Terry Glenn for a 53-yard completion that set up the team’s first touchdown, and also set the tone of their 28-3 victory — the first playoff game hosted by the Super Bowl-bound Patriots in 18 years.
“I will never forget that catch. It was the highlight of my career,” Mr. Glenn, the seventh overall pick in the 1996 draft, told the Globe the following year. “That was Rod Woodson, someone I grew up admiring.”
Immensely talented and sometimes controversial, the 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound wide receiver played 12 seasons in the National Football League, the first six with the Patriots.
Mr. Glenn, who ranks eighth in Patriots history in receiving yards and ninth in receptions, died Monday in Irving, Texas, in a single-car crash, Irving Assistant Fire Chief Jack Taylor told the Globe. He was 43.
With New England, he had 329 career receptions for 4,669 yards and 22 touchdowns, and he caught Tom Brady’s first touchdown pass — a 21-yarder in a 29-26 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers in 2001. Mr. Glenn set what at the time was the NFL record for most receptions by a rookie, with 90, and was named to the 1999 Pro Bowl.
“We were shocked and deeply saddened by today’s news. Terry was one of the most gifted receivers we have ever had,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. “For so many Patriots fans, his rookie season will be remembered as one of the most impactful in franchise history . . . Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry’s family, his former teammates and friends who mourn his loss.”
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Glenn died shortly before 1 a.m. in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
Taylor told the Globe that Irving emergency personnel responded to the car crash shortly after midnight. He said the vehicle, which was found on its side, rolled at least once, and that Mr. Glenn was ejected. Taylor added that a 38-year-old woman who was a passenger in the car was injured.
Kraft had drafted Mr. Glenn over the wishes of then-head coach Bill Parcells, who subsequently was frustrated by Mr. Glenn’s lingering hamstring issues in August 1996. “She’s making progress,” Parcells said in response to questions about Mr. Glenn’s injury, a comment that drew a rebuke from Kraft.
Injuries and suspensions — and some standout performances — marked the rest of Mr. Glenn’s tenure with the Patriots. He told the Globe in 2001 that “it’s never going to end until we part our separate ways.”
After Mr. Glenn missed a scheduled drug test in early 2001, the NFL suspended him for the first four games of the season that fall. The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI, but Mr. Glenn did not receive a ring and was traded to the Green Bay Packers for two fourth-round draft choices.
Mr. Glenn and Parcells would meet again when Parcells coached him with the Dallas Cowboys, and later when Mr. Glenn was an intern coach with the Miami Dolphins and Parcells was the team’s vice president.
Mr. Glenn played one year in Green Bay and spent his final five years in the league with the Cowboys, posting more than 1,000 receiving yards his last two full seasons.
Bill Belichick said in a conference call yesterday that Mr. Glenn had “a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think was, deep down inside, a good person with good intentions and a good heart.”
In an Instagram post, Bledsoe recalled his son asking him who his favorite receiver was because he wanted that jersey for Christmas. “He got a Terry Glenn jersey from Santa,” Bledsoe said. “TG overcame horrible adversity to become a really good man. May your soul rest in peace my friend.”
Mr. Glenn was 13 when his mother was murdered. He was raised by his aunts while attending Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio.
“After she was gone, I felt like there was nobody who loved me anymore,” Mr. Glenn once told the Globe.
He added that parents of a friend “took me in and they guided me the right way as far as being educated and filling my goals of playing football . . . when the bad times came around, I directed my energy into sports instead of trouble.”
Patriots teammate Willie McGinest recalled Mr. Glenn’s rookie year and their special relationship that followed.
“He was kind of quiet when he came here and then I found out about his early life, and I felt like a big brother to him. I would never judge him. He had all the potential and all the ability, and we would always have conversations, not just about football,” McGinest said.
“I liked him, although it took some time to understand him. Terry could be a little standoffish or sometimes lash out. But he also loved kids and he loved giving back to them.”
A walk-on at Ohio State University, Mr. Glenn established program records for receptions and touchdowns in his only varsity season in 1995. He was also named an All-American and received the Fred Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation’s top collegiate receiver.
“He was one of the top five most exciting players I have ever coached, and no one played the game who was faster than Terry,” said former Ohio State head coach John Cooper.
He said Mr. Glenn’s 83-yard, catch-and-run TD against Notre Dame was one of the greatest plays he has ever seen. “Terry came out of poverty, but got great advice and mentoring from his high school coach, Greg Miller. I loved the guy — as a player and a person.”
Information about survivors and a memorial service was not immediately available.
“Terry Glenn was the best receiver I ever threw to. Period,” Bledsoe said in a post for Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback.
“We didn’t talk enough over the past decade but kept in touch,” Bledsoe added. “I could tell that Terry was finally in a place where he was happy. He was working to help people with his foundation and making an impact on the world. His passing is a true tragedy. He seemed to have figured things out and was headed for a fulfilled life.”
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org