ALTON — The demand was so high, to see one of Marquette’s all-time best athletes have his jersey retired, that officials had to move the date – and the site.
The MCHS gym simply wasn’t big enough.
Marquette will retire the jersey of Craig Hentrich, a former Prep All-America kicker who went on to star at Notre Dame and in the NFL at halftime of the Explorers’ Sept. 3 home football game against Breese Mater Dei at Public School Stadium.
The Marquette vs. Roxana boys’ basketball game by itself had ticket requests indicating a sell-out crowd and MCHS officials wanted to ensure Roxana fans were not turned away for the basketball game as a result of the retirement ceremony.
“Craig was an All American when he was at Marquette,” Marquette principal Mike Slaughter said. “He went on to great success at the University of Notre Dame and, as a Super Bowl Champion, is our most accomplished professional athlete.
“For such a remarkable career, he deserves this special recognition.”
Hentrich played in 241 games in the NFL over 16 seasons.
At Marquette, Hentrich was the most highly recruited high school kicker in the country and was named as a High School All American in his senior season. Hentrich was an all-around athlete at Marquette.
But as a kicker, he attracted crowds. Fans showed up to games just to watch him kick. His kickoffs normally sailed out of the end zone and his field goals were eye-popping at times.
During his career at Marquette, Hentrich made 24 field goals in three seasons, including 10 during the 1988 season. Among his field goals that season were one of 55 and another of 53 yards. They are still among the longest in state history, as recorded in the Illinois High School Association record book.
Hentrich kicked and punted for coach Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. He holds the school record with a career 44.1 yards-per-punt average. As a placekicker, he was 39 of 56 in field goal attempts. He finished his college career as Notre Dame’s top placekicking scorer with 294 points. A whopping 177 of those were extra points. his career record in PATs is 98.3 percent.
Hentrich was drafted by the Jets in 1993, but later signed with the Packers and helped them to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. He signed with Tennessee after the 1997 season and was the punter for the Titans in their Super Bowl loss to the Rams in 2000. He played in two Super Bowls with Green Bay and one with the Titans.
In 1998 and 2003 Hentrich was selected as an All Pro and invited to the Pro Bowl. He retired from pro football in 2009.
“Craig was also a very good student when he was here,” Slaughter said. “As a school that prepares our students to graduate from college, we are proud that he earned a degree from Notre Dame in the four years he was there.”
The majority of available tickets to the Feb. 12 game will be allotted to current MCHS parents, students and alumni. Details regarding the limited number of remaining tickets will be released by the school at a later date.
“This will be a great night for the Marquette family,” Slaughter said, “and we look forward to seeing Craig, his family, former coaches and teammates.”
Former Marquette coach John Waters will introduce Hentrich and Slaughter, also a former MCHS head football coach, will serve as the master of ceremonies.
The community is invited to attend, particularly Hentrich’s former classmates and teammates. He would like former teammates to stand with him during the ceremony and they are asked to RSVP online at http://action.marquettecatholic.org/hentrich.