All though his football career at Temple, center Matt Hennessy always acted in the best interest of the team, both on and off the field.
As the postseason honors attest, the redshirt junior became one of the best centers in the country, a third-team Associated Press All-American and one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the country’s top center. (Wisconsin’s Tyler Bladasz was this year’s winner.)
Hennessy started 36 games in three seasons. Coach Rod Carey, once a center himself at Indiana University, previously has referred to Hennessy as the best center he has been around.
So over the weekend, Hennessy officially announced that he would be bypassing his final year at Temple and entering the NFL draft. He earned his degree earlier this month, and there wasn’t much left to prove.
“There were a lot of factors in my decision,” Hennessy said in a phone interview with The Inquirer from California, where he will begin training for his pro career. “I was pretty happy with the four years. There are things I wanted to get done that I didn’t get to do, but overall I felt good about my time at Temple.”
Hennessy, 22, said as he was preparing for Temple’s Military Bowl game with North Carolina that he had a good idea he would be opting for the NFL. There are others in his place who would have skipped the bowl game. Hennessy has no regrets about playing, even though the Owls lost, 55-13, to North Carolina on Friday.
“I am certainly happy I did play,” he said. “The outcome was far from what we wanted, but it was nice to put on the Temple uniform one more time.”
Carey explained before the bowl game that when an underclassmen looks for information from the NFL, there are three grades given – first round, second round, or return to school grade. In addition, if asked, teams would give a round projection beyond the second round.
Hennessy said he was satisfied with what he heard from the NFL to make the decision. “The projection came back in a place I was pretty confident,” he said.
At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, Hennessy, who never played center before coming to Temple from New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep, was made for the position. Tough, athletic, and intelligent, he was a prime candidate to make the line calls and be the quarterback of the offensive line.
This regular season he was graded as the fifth-best offensive lineman in the country (87.0) and the best center nationally by Pro Football Focus. Missing one game due to injury, he allowed no sacks and only four pressures in the other 11 regular-season games.
Hennessy also knows what it takes to play in the NFL because his brother Thomas is the long snapper for the New York Jets. His brother was an undrafted free agent from Duke, who just completed his third season with the Jets.
“He was really helpful and he is the person I talked to most throughout,” Hennessy said. “Him being in the league and having an idea of what it takes was really helpful.”
Hennessy said that Carey and Temple offensive line coach Joe Tripodi were also helpful in the process.
Because he has declared for the draft, Hennessy was invited to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.
“I was pretty excited to officially get an invite to that,” said Hennessy, who said he won’t hear if he is invited to the NFL combine until later in January.
And he can’t wait to get his professional career going.
“I am really excited,” he said. “It is a dream come true and it doesn’t feel real just yet.”