Photographer: Andrea Ceraso
LONG-TIME NEW CANAANITE TERRY HANRATTY IS AN ALL-AMERICAN LEGEND!
Born in 1948, he’s from Butler, a town of about 15,000 outside Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania; in the same area that’s fostered 6 of the 23 quarterbacks currently in the ProFootball Hall of Fame – Blanda, Unitas, Namath, Montana, Marino, and Kelly. “It’s not exactly ‘something in the water’,” Terry says, “but it definitely has something to do with the working- class rough-and-tumble environment. Tough people breed tough kids, and I grew up with kids whose dads were steel and mill workers. Football was the toughest sport, and every town produced a stand-out quarterback every year. My dad was a salesman and my mom was a work-at-home seamstress, and I knew football was my ticket to something different.”
He attended St. Paul Butler Catholic School, and then Butler Senior High School, with about 1,000 kids in each class. He also played varsity basketball and baseball, but football at Butler was something else entirely. “Three out of the four kids in my backfield went on to the NFL. In his 20 years at Butler, my high school Coach, Art Bernardi, sent 62 players on to Division I college teams. On Friday night you could have robbed any house in town – everyone was at the Butler football game!,” Terry reminisces.
Coming out of high school, Terry was a top national prospect. Coach Bear Bryant came to visit, trying to get Terry to go to the University of Alabama. Assistant
Coach Paterno made his bid for Penn State. Terry wanted to go to Michigan State to play for Coach Duffy Daugherty. “Then Coach Ara Parseghian came to visit me to convince me to come to Notre Dame. My four-year-older brother, Peter, who died four years ago, had gone to Notre Dame on a track scholarship – although I broke his record in high school! – and had a great experience there. Coach Parseghian took me out to a coffee shop in the Hilton Hotel in Pittsburgh.
He ordered a $4 steak, and I had a $2 club sandwich with fries because I didn’t want to appear to be taking advantage. We talked for two hours, and more about life than about football. He told me I needed to go to Notre Dame for the education and the kind of man it would make me – and choosing Notre Dame was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Terry says. “Although I have to admit, I still root for Michigan State – unless they’re playing against the Fighting Irish.”
NCAA Division I rules prohibited any freshman from playing varsity football, but as a sophomore, in 1966, Terry led Notre Dame to win the National Championship! He was such a phenomenon that Time Magazine put him on their cover on October 28, 1966 – then the youngest person ever on the Time cover! In each of his junior and senior years, in 1967 and 1968, he led Notre Dame to a Top-10 finish! In his three years at Notre Dame, Terry had 304 completions for 4,152 yards, with 27 touchdowns, and the team went 24-4-2! Terry says humbly, “It was all because of the great people around me. And Coach Parseghian. Everyone on my team graduated! And I still get together once a year with all the guys.”
In the 1969 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers picked Defensive Tackle ‘Mean’ Joe Greene in the First Round, and Hanratty in the Second Round. “Our family’s hometown attorney was my agent, and I probably could or should have done more proactively about the draft, but I was thrilled to be drafted by the Steelers… My hometown team! Art Rooney was known to be the best Owner in the NFL!” Terry says fondly. “But after the Steelers drafted ‘the other Terry’, Bradshaw, as the overall #1 pick in the 1970 Draft the year after my rookie year, my starting QB days were over, and my role as the back-up QB became pretty permanent.” Hanratty played 1969 through 1975 with the Pittsburgh Steelers – and has the Super Bowl Champion rings from Super Bowl IX in 1974 and from Super Bowl X in 1975 to show for it! Then, somewhat ironically, he finished his NFL career, in 1976, playing with the new expansion-team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost every game that season. Hanratty finished his NFL career with 2,510 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, having appeared in 50 games.
Terry has the kind of quiet confidence every NFL Coach tells his team they’ll have if they become Super Bowl Champs, and Terry’s life-after-football has been rather idyllic. He had a successful 35-year career in financial services, working for Oppenheimer, Cowen, and Sanford Bernstein. He also worked for a few years as a Sportscaster for ESPN. He retired eight years ago, but still does some consulting now. “I’m really interested in a company that has a UV light technology, which has been proven to substantially eliminate pathogens from the air without any negative associated impact. This could be a game changer for hospitals, schools, office buildings and other public spaces,” Terry says enthusiastically about one of his consulting gigs. He had three daughters, Kelly, Rebecca, and JJ, with his first wife, from whom he was divorced in 1979. “I know it seems impossible looking at me,” he jokes, “but I have three daughters over 50, and 3 grandchildren – all girls!” He met his current wife, Kelly, in the early 90’s, and the ‘Honest Abe’ circumstances say everything about his character. …Kelly was in Manhattan, down from Boston where she lived, for a business conference. Kelly was then working for a Big Five accounting firm, has also had a successful career in financial services, and is now with Deloitte. When she was getting out of her car in Manhattan, Kelly’s wallet, which she’d had on her lap to pay tolls during the trip, fell to the street without Kelly noticing. Sometime later, Terry, who was living in Manhattan and on his way to return a video at Blockbuster, found the wallet. Terry arranged a date to meet with Kelly to return the wallet to her, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Terry and Kelly had their son, Conor, in 1993, and moved to New Canaan in 1994. Then came their daughter, Erin, in 1997. Talking fondly about raising Conor and Erin in New Canaan, Terry says, “I coached football, basketball and baseball for Conor, and had a couple of all-star teams! And I coached softball and basketball for Erin. I remember her first basketball team, in first grade, was boys and girls, and they played half-court four-on- four. Zach Allen, who now plays Defensive End in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals, was on Erin’s team and was simply dominant. We had to hold the score down in most of the games! And we won the Girl’s Softball State Championship when Erin was 10. Erin played a mean Second Base. They both graduated from New Canaan High School. Conor, who’s 6’5” and 300 lbs., went on to Notre Dame, where he also played football, until a number of concussions put an end to his football career. He’s now an Investment Banker with Houlihan Lokey. And Erin went to Pepperdine University, and has a great job in Sports Marketing with Two Circles Media Company. I’m really proud of them both!”
These days, Terry plays some golf, although he says, “I’m about an 18. I play a few charity outings in Pittsburgh every year, but I don’t play enough to be good….And, for regular exercise, I walk at least 5 miles a day.”
Of course, Terry roots for Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh Steelers and says he almost never misses watching a game either team plays. “We were in South Bend quite a bit when Conor was playing. We even had a house just off-campus, which we finally sold in 2022.”
But Terry says he also has a soft-spot for the New York Giants, and that he’s a solid New York Yankees fan.
As for the future, Terry declares, “WE’RE STAYING IN NEW CANAAN. This was a terrific community to raise Conor and Erin, and I can’t think of a place where I’d rather live. We’re looking for a place in Florida, but I could never live there year-round. I like the change of seasons.”