Despite a long and productive NFL career, Todd Herremans’ statement on a recent CatchMark SportsNet Podcast might have come as a revelation to some: “I don’t even like football that much.”
It should not surprise those who know Herremans well. Football was never No. 1 among the four sports he played at rural Ravenna High School, even though he was an all-state performer. He preferred baseball and basketball.
“Football was kind of an avenue for me to prove people wrong,” he said, referring to the hunger that festered inside of him as he transformed from a large-framed, slow-footed high school player to a dominant offensive tackle at Division II Saginaw Valley State to a longtime starting offensive lineman in the NFL.
Herremans retired in 2015 after 11 seasons in the league, 10 of them with the Philadelphia Eagles. He morphed into a finely tuned athlete at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds and grew an affection for the City of Brotherly Love, where he met wife Elizabeth at a Phillies game.
Despite the storybook journey he’s been on, all the things he’s experienced and witnessed as a professional athlete, and the life he’s led, he’s remained true to himself and his blue-collar, wholesome roots. Family and friends still recognize him as the same, old Todd, even as he’s trimmed down to a “tightly packed” 275 pounds and masterfully transitioned to this next phase of life.
Photos courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles, Drew Hallowell and Getty Images
Herremans played in 135 NFL games and started 126 of them, eight in the playoffs. He’s protected elite quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, blocked for electric running backs Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, and played alongside Pro Bowl linemen such as Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.
Herremans has earned multiple awards and recognition at all levels, including his upcoming induction in the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame June 18 at Mercy Health Arena. But the legacy he wants to leave has nothing to do with his athletic merits and everything to do with the type of person he is at his core.
“I guess I just want to be remembered as somebody that was honest, somebody that was genuine and then somebody that was kind,” he reflected during a recent sit-down interview in the CatchMark studio.
“A lot of the other stuff kind of fades away after you’re gone – how strong you are, how fast you are, things like that. People really remember, ‘Was he nice to me or was he a jerk?’ That’s what I always tell my kids, ‘It doesn’t matter how people talk to you, just be kind. That’s all you can do is just be kind.’”
The family that raised Herremans – parents Paul and Marilee, who were both educators; older brothers John and Scott — accepts nothing less.
He’s always been conscientious, and he learned the value of hard work at a young age. He grew up on a farm and was raised by the Village of Ravenna. When Herremans was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, he brought friends from SVSU back home to the farm in Ravenna so everybody could share in the special moment.
When he retired from the NFL, he was back on a farm – one that he and his wife purchased in West Chester, Pa., about 35 miles west of Philly. Herremans is turning it into a “country club farm,” 30 acres where they have two land-clearing goats, chickens that produce the eggs they consume and plans for purchasing cattle.
In Herremans’ mind, it’s the perfect place to raise his young children, Olivia (6) and Jaxon (4). He wants them to learn the same lessons he learned growing up.
At 39 years old, Herremans is totally immersed in family and the “Dadding” life. He drives his daughter to school. He makes lunch for his kids and helps his wife however he can. He does chores and projects around the farm.
Marilee Herremans estimates that her son probably hated growing up on a farm at times, but that he learned to realize the value of it.
“Most people probably think it’s pretty boring, not quite the life … I don’t even know what people think NFL players do when they’re done,” Herremans said. “This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing when I was done, but I can’t really imagine doing anything else other than spending time with my kids and family.”
Herremans has come such a long way from the pudgy youngster, who admittedly was the annoying little brother.
At Ravenna, he served as class vice-president and was a member of the National Honor Society and Science Olympiad team. He earned seven varsity letters and received various honors across all sports he played, including all-conference in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. He graduated cum laude in 2001.
At SVSU, Herremans was a four-year starter, who earned Freshman MVP honors, All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference academic honors as a sophomore and first-team All-GLIAC and all-region as a junior. In 2004, he was GLIAC Lineman of the Year and an Associated Press Little All-American first-team pick, plus a participant in the Cactus and Las Vegas bowls.
In the NFL, Herremans played both guard and both tackle positions. He’s the only offensive lineman in Eagles history to record two touchdown receptions. He was part of an Eagles O-line that allowed only 28 sacks in the 2006 season, fewest for the franchise since 1981. He was known for his consistency, durability and versatility.
Photos courtesy of the Herremans family
During his playing career, he launched the Herremans Foundation, a philanthropic, volunteering, grant-fulfulling organization, providing assistance in the form of events and charitable donations. He’s a member of Athletes for Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community where all athletes can find support, opportunity and purpose in life following a career in sports. He’s made generous donations to his high school and collegiate alma maters.
After his career, he became an advocate for the medical use of cannabis. He’s a partner for BodyChek Wellness, a company which makes hemp-based products for wellness, balance and recovery.
“I was proud of him being a football player, but I was more proud of him being a (good) person,” said Paul Herremans, who is in his 31st season as Ravenna’s varsity baseball coach.
Herremans’ entire family is proud, as are his friends and his hometown.
Herremans has always looked up to big-brother Scott, a large man himself, who believe it or not used to throw Todd around in their tussles. Their mother said that Todd grew up always wanting what Scott had.
Scott earned two state championship rings with Ravenna football, while Todd was never able to get one. However, little brother went on to become a real-life underdog story as a rock-solid NFL player, so it seems as though they both won.
Scott beams with pride about the man his brother has become.
“That’s everything. The mindset that you have to be in to play in the league and be good and play and grind, I mean, your mindset is red line all the time and he’s been able to just put that mindset aside and turn into straight-up dad mode,” Scott Herremans said. “He’s dedicated to his kids and his wife and he’s having a lot of fun not having to be in that aggressive mindset.
“He’s an awesome, awesome dad, an awesome husband and he’s trying his hand at a little hobby farming. I imagine a lot of guys in the league probably kind of lose themselves a bit and (wonder), ‘What do you do next?’ And he transitioned straight into (family life), like it was flawless.”
Todd Herremans remembers being doubted as a college prospect out of a small town. College recruiters said he would never play Division I football, which he didn’t, let alone pro football, but look who got the last laugh.
Photos courtesy of SVSU Athletics and the Herremans family
At SVSU, Herremans was told he had a shot at the NFL. That was all he needed to hear. The rest is history.
He never viewed himself as a gifted athlete, but more so a “try-hard guy,” so he did what he knew: Went to work. At 6-6, 294 pounds, he pulled off a 4.94-second 40-yard dash in front of pro scouts. He was able to do 39 reps of 225 pounds.
Herremans has nothing to prove to anybody, although he is still humbled by the attention he receives. He appreciates people who are genuine. Conversely, that’s what people appreciate about him most.
“I really don’t get many honors now that I’m done playing, so it means a lot,” Herremans said about his upcoming Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony and fund-raiser. “It’s like, the notoriety after you’re done playing starts to fade away. You don’t have a shot at being a Pro Bowler or an All-Pro or winning playoff games, so all these achievements that you once had kind of fade away, you know.
“A kid in Ravenna, I never thought I’d be recognized in the City of Muskegon Hall of Fame or anything like that. It’s all kind of surreal. I guess a lot of my life has been surreal until you just realize that it’s real.”
CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame banquet June 18.
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