Merton Hanks, a graduate of Lake Highlands High School and member of the San Francisco 49ers team which won Super Bowl XXIX in 1994, was inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame Saturday in Dallas. After setting records at the University of Iowa, Hanks was drafted by San Francisco in 1991 and selected for 4 Pro Bowl and 3 All-Pro teams. He had 33 career interceptions and 6 touchdowns, and retired from play in 1999 after one year with the Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps more than his stats, he was famous for his “pigeon dance” celebrations after making a stellar play.
In 2015, the NFL made a presentation to LHHS in recognition of Super Bowl alums Matt Stover, Detron Smith and Hanks, and all 3 attended. Before the presentation pep rally, the men gave a pep talk to the Wildcat football team.
“When the team wins, everybody wins,” Hanks told the kids. “Everybody looks a little better than they really are, and everybody gets hardware (pointing at his Super Bowl ring). I was on one of the greatest collections of football talent ever assembled. We had either a Hall of Fame player, an All Pro player or a Pro Bowl player on both sides of the ball, and in some cases, two deep. And we were losing. We weren’t taking care of each other, we weren’t lifting each other up. Finally, we bought in to what the coach was saying. It’s his job to make you better.”
“We’re all over the country, from coast to coast,” he said, pointing to the Super Bowl vets, “but we’re talking about you guys. We’re wondering when you guys are going to decide to be a team. We’d like to see it on the field tonight versus Berkner. I hate Berkner.”
The crowd ate it up.
Hanks’ words did the trick. The 0-3 Wildcats beat Berkner 59-28.
Also inducted Saturday were Aaron Glenn, Dorothy Miles Benefield, Leonard Bishop, Lee Carter, Rita Crockett, Artis Gilmore, Cassius Green, Billy Johnson, John Lucas, Russell Maryland, Debra Denis Rodman, Lucious Williams and Allen Williams. You can see the Merton Hanks display at the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame, housed at the African American Museum in Fair Park.