Temple center Matt Hennessy, who bypassed his senior year to enter the NFL draft, was selected in the third round -- 78th overall -- by the Atlanta Falcons. He was the 14th player selected in the third round.
Measured at 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds at the NFL combine, Hennessy was a third-team Associated Press All-American and a first-team selection in the American Athletic Conference this season. He started 36 of 38 games for the Owls.
Hennessy said he is a little relieved that the draft process is finally over.
“More importantly, I’m excited to join another organization and be working towards winning a championship again and just learning the playbook, the strength program, developing relationships with the new teammates,” he said on Friday night in a conference call with reporters.
Hennessy said he had a decent amount of conversation with the Falcons before the draft.
“They definitely figured out who I was as a player and person and did a bunch of research,” he said. “We knew it was definitely in play.”
Hennessy made one start during his career at Temple at guard and the rest at center but feels he can play any interior position on the offensive line.
“That’s one thing I focused on improving throughout this draft process,” he said. “At Temple I focused on playing center because that’s where I was placed and year-to-year we felt like that put us in the best position to succeed. Going forward I’m looking forward to playing all three interior spots.”
Atlanta’s center is 34-year-old Alex Mack, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, who can become a free agent after this season.
“As a young player, at such a developmental position, somewhere always looking to get better, having a veteran of that caliber will be absolutely incredible and it will be extremely helpful as I enter the league,” he said about Mack.
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said the Falcons will begin having Hennessy playing left guard. When asked if that will be for just one year, he said, “Let’s see where it plays out."
Quinn added that he expects Hennessy to compete for a starting job. He said that the Falcons had Hennessy rated higher than where he was selected.
“We and a lot of people had him ranked in that second round area,” Quinn said. “To feel like we were able to pull him off the board in the third round, we feel was very fortunate for us.”
Now he will be playing in the NFC South, in the same division as the Carolina Panthers, coached by Matt Rhule, who recruited him to come to Temple.
“It will be awesome,” he said about facing Rhule’s Panthers twice a year. “It’s funny, like when I got selected two of the first guys I heard from are guys who are now part of that organization who recruited me at Temple. I guess it’s kind of coming full circle now playing against them at the next level.”
Hennessy, who has earned his degree in finance, is the 75th Temple player selected in the NFL draft.
His brother is Thomas Hennessy, a long-snapper for the New York Jets.
This is the fifth straight year that Temple has had at least one player selected in the NFL draft.