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‘This kid’s got that “it”’: Matt Hennessy’s journey to a spot with the Falcons


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https://theathletic.com/2025113/2020/08/26/this-kids-got-that-it-matt-hennessys-journey-to-a-spot-with-the-falcons/

 

By Tori McElhaney 

 

Matt Hennessy’s very first college snap taken at center was during the first game of his redshirt freshman season against Notre Dame in South Bend in 2017. The game itself wasn’t very memorable. Notre Dame was expected to win and did. Temple lost 49-16, but when Chris Wiesehan returned home, he remembers telling his wife, Renee, that a young Hennessy had impressed him.

Better yet, Wiesehan said he told her that Hennessy was going to be a part of an NFL Draft someday.

“This kid is going to play on Sunday night. I don’t know where. I don’t know when that draft pick will be. But he’s so talented athletically, and his focus, his character, his leadership skills are there. He doesn’t get rattled,” Wiesehan remembered telling his wife.

“I said, ‘This guy is going to be an elite player.'”

Wiesehan remembers the first time he saw Hennessy a couple of years before he made this prediction. It was at a recruiting camp when Hennessy was playing tackle for Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.

Hennessy’s measurables jumped off the page at Wiesehan right away. When he’s recruiting, Wiesehan likes his linemen lighter in terms of sheer pounds. He said he always can add weight later if the athleticism is there. He did it with Hennessy and just recently as the tight ends coach at Georgia Tech with the Yellow Jackets’ first tight end in more than a decade, Tyler Davis, who was picked by Jacksonville in the sixth round of this year’s draft.

Looking back on that Notre Dame game, Wiesehan said he knew Hennessy had to get bigger and stronger, but since their introduction a couple of years before, Wiesehan also knew that the way Hennessy’s mind worked meant there was little that had to change mentally for the lineman to succeed.

Wiesehan said he could see Hennessy at center, so in that recruiting camp, Wiesehan moved Hennessy to see what he could do. Wiesehan said Hennessy flourished at the spot even then, and Wiesehan offered Hennessy right on the spot.

“I think his focus and his attention to detail (stand out) immediately,” Wiesehan said. “For those kids in camp, there is a lot of information getting thrown at them at a rapid pace, and Matt just simply absorbed that information, processed that information and applied the techniques that I was trying to throw at him. In one-on-one situations, I was telling him what to correct, how to correct it, and in the next rep he was working to apply those things.”

But Wiesehan said Hennessy really came into his own and evolved into a true potential top-100 draft pick when he found his voice. In all actuality, that wasn’t who Hennessy was originally, Wiesehan said.

Hennessy always was going to be the player who knew every call, knew every protection, but he was going to lead by his actions more than his words. This works for a lot of people, but Wiesehan needed Hennessy to have a voice, and when he finally found it, it transformed his game.

“I was still growing,” Hennessy said, “but I would say spring of 2018, going into my second year starting, I really did. I found my voice.”

He said he saw a shift in his confidence at that point. It’s what he leans on even now as he transitions to the pro game.

When discussing the voice that Hennessy has established in recent years, Wiesehan laughed as he recalled that he told the Falcons Hennessy’s voice might be a little subdued in the beginning.

“I was like, ‘This is a guy who’s going to go in as a rookie, and he’s going to shut his mouth,'” Wiesehan said. “He’s going to know every answer to the test, but he’s not going to be self-absorbed. He’s very self-aware. He understands a room of veterans and where he’ll fit in that room, but he will still go out and compete his butt off and won’t bow down to anybody, but he really has that self-awareness.”

But Falcons coach Dan Quinn praised Hennessy even early in camp as the Falcons worked to establish him in the competition for the starting left guard position, where Quinn is not quite ready to name a starter.

Hennessy has been featured there numerous times during the past few weeks of training camp, hoping to beat out James Carpenter for the spot. Quinn said the staff has thrown a lot of things at Hennessy during this training camp period without the cushion of any preseason games to fall back on. The Falcons are relying on rookies such as Hennessy, A.J. Terrell and Mykal Walker to make a difference immediately. That means they had to hit the ground running at the start of camp. Quinn said Hennessy, in particular, keeps answering each challenge tossed his way.

At Temple, Hennessy was a decorated center, but the Falcons don’t really need him at center with veteran Alex Mack holding down that position. Funny enough, Hennessy said when he was making the move from tackle to center from high school to college it was Mack’s film that he really gravitated toward. Now teammates, Hennessy said he benefits greatly from just being around Mack every day and that he wanted to mimic Mack’s gotta-get-it-done attitude then and now.

During the offseason when the rookies were learning all of the nuances of the Falcons’ scheme remotely, Hennessy said Mack checked in on him almost every day. Mack made sure Hennessy was up to speed on everything and answered his questions. Sometimes, Hennessy said, he wouldn’t know what question to ask, but Mack asked and answered it for him.

“I have never been around a teammate who goes out of his way to help other people like that,” Hennessy said. “It’s been pretty remarkable.”

In terms of making the move from center to guard, Wiesehan said it’s actually a move that could be beneficial to Hennessy in his first year in the league. While there has to be significant communication across the offensive line, there’s a lot of pressure on the centers to make the initial calls and adjustments and pass that information down the line.

“I think for him to go play guard, there’s a little bit of relief there for a rookie,” Wiesehan said. “There’s a little bit of relief where he can just go out, get the calls, play football and play fast.”

Wiesehan also noted what Hennessy said about playing beside Mack: It can bring only good things the rookie’s way.

“Alex has been one of the best centers in the game for a long, long time. … For Matt to be in the same room with a guy like that and playing next to a guy like that,” Wiesehan said, “it’s only going to help him ascend.”

And Wiesehan has had a firsthand account of Hennessy’s ascension since he first saw him at that high school camp those few years ago. The two have remained close since.

When asked about his relationship with Wiesehan, Hennessy said Wiesehan has been there every step of the way, even when Wiesehan left Philadelphia to follow Geoff Collins to Atlanta when he took the head coaching job at Georgia Tech in 2019. The two talk a lot; they talked through all of the pre-draft jitters and continue to talk with training camp well underway.

“He’s able to give me all the reminders I need just to stay in a good place mentally,” Hennessy said.

From Wiesehan’s perspective, there’s one story that sticks out the most. It’s the night Wiesehan took Hennessy to the hospital in 2018.

During a Friday walk-through before a Saturday game, Wiesehan noticed that Hennessy was in some discomfort. Asking him what was going on, Hennessy noted pain in his side. Wiesehan said Hennessy is the type of player who if he gets dinged up, you never would know it unless you looked at the training chart and saw that he went to the trainer for something. He just never complains about anything. So when Hennessy noted his side was bothering him, Wiesehan took him to the trainers and team doctors.

With everyone coming to the same conclusion that everything seemed fine, Hennessy played the next day. Wiesehan said he actually played, grading out to a 93 or 94 if he remembers correctly.

But a couple of days later, as Wiesehan sat at the Temple facility going over the run game for the week ahead late on a Monday night, he got a call from Hennessy. He was in more pain, so Wiesehan jumped in the car and took him to the hospital. Wiesehan remembers the concern he had, as Hennessy was in obvious discomfort, but the two stayed up all night chatting and bonding in that hospital room. The undisclosed issue wasn’t serious — Hennessy was back on the field playing as if he had never missed a beat two weeks later — but Wiesehan still remembers that night well.

“That’s one that sticks in my mind about how much I love that kid,” Wiesehan said. “I will never forget that: how concerned I was, how concerned his parents were, and then he comes back and plays great a couple of weeks later.”

Wiesehan has seen Hennessy play in game after game, and even now, as Hennessy prepares to hopefully start for the Falcons in his rookie season, Wiesehan has held on to the assumption that Hennessy could be an asset at the professional level. He told his wife so all the way back in 2017. It’s a perspective that’s never changed for as long as he has known Hennessy.

“(There are) those moments where you’re like, ‘This kid’s got that “it,”‘” Wiesehan said.

Practice observations and notes

• Mack and Todd Gurley did not practice Wednesday on a scheduled day off for the two. Marlon Davidson, Olamide Zaccheaus and Qadree Ollison also were out, all sidelined due to injury. Davidson is still resting a knee strain. Quinn said Kurt Benkert was excused from practice Wednesday “for the very best of personal reasons.” His wife is expecting the couple’s first child and posted to Instagram on Tuesday that it might be her “last bump photo,” so take that information as you will.

• The Falcons are continuing to play around with a bunch of different defensive line combinations. Allen Bailey, John Cominsky and Steven Means were in heavy rotation with Dante Fowler Jr., Grady Jarrett, Tyeler Davison and Takk McKinley. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Charles Harris also got some quality playing time on Wednesday.

• The Falcons spent much of Wednesday working on third-down and red zone situations, particularly a couple of yards from the goal line. In the latter of those periods, Walker got to the quarterback quickly on a blitz, and it likely would have been a sack in a real-time situation. Also in that period, LaRoy Reynolds came up with a big stop on the 1-yard line, crashing pads with Ito Smith, who was trying to cut back through the gap.

• The Falcons worked on field goal formations on Wednesday, and Younghoe Koo was 5-for-5 in his attempts.

 

 

Edited by Goober Pyle
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1 hour ago, Goober Pyle said:

https://theathletic.com/2025113/2020/08/26/this-kids-got-that-it-matt-hennessys-journey-to-a-spot-with-the-falcons/

 

By Tori McElhaney 

 

Matt Hennessy’s very first college snap taken at center was during the first game of his redshirt freshman season against Notre Dame in South Bend in 2017. The game itself wasn’t very memorable. Notre Dame was expected to win and did. Temple lost 49-16, but when Chris Wiesehan returned home, he remembers telling his wife, Renee, that a young Hennessy had impressed him.

Better yet, Wiesehan said he told her that Hennessy was going to be a part of an NFL Draft someday.

“This kid is going to play on Sunday night. I don’t know where. I don’t know when that draft pick will be. But he’s so talented athletically, and his focus, his character, his leadership skills are there. He doesn’t get rattled,” Wiesehan remembered telling his wife.

“I said, ‘This guy is going to be an elite player.'”

Wiesehan remembers the first time he saw Hennessy a couple of years before he made this prediction. It was at a recruiting camp when Hennessy was playing tackle for Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.

Hennessy’s measurables jumped off the page at Wiesehan right away. When he’s recruiting, Wiesehan likes his linemen lighter in terms of sheer pounds. He said he always can add weight later if the athleticism is there. He did it with Hennessy and just recently as the tight ends coach at Georgia Tech with the Yellow Jackets’ first tight end in more than a decade, Tyler Davis, who was picked by Jacksonville in the sixth round of this year’s draft.

Looking back on that Notre Dame game, Wiesehan said he knew Hennessy had to get bigger and stronger, but since their introduction a couple of years before, Wiesehan also knew that the way Hennessy’s mind worked meant there was little that had to change mentally for the lineman to succeed.

Wiesehan said he could see Hennessy at center, so in that recruiting camp, Wiesehan moved Hennessy to see what he could do. Wiesehan said Hennessy flourished at the spot even then, and Wiesehan offered Hennessy right on the spot.

“I think his focus and his attention to detail (stand out) immediately,” Wiesehan said. “For those kids in camp, there is a lot of information getting thrown at them at a rapid pace, and Matt just simply absorbed that information, processed that information and applied the techniques that I was trying to throw at him. In one-on-one situations, I was telling him what to correct, how to correct it, and in the next rep he was working to apply those things.”

But Wiesehan said Hennessy really came into his own and evolved into a true potential top-100 draft pick when he found his voice. In all actuality, that wasn’t who Hennessy was originally, Wiesehan said.

Hennessy always was going to be the player who knew every call, knew every protection, but he was going to lead by his actions more than his words. This works for a lot of people, but Wiesehan needed Hennessy to have a voice, and when he finally found it, it transformed his game.

“I was still growing,” Hennessy said, “but I would say spring of 2018, going into my second year starting, I really did. I found my voice.”

He said he saw a shift in his confidence at that point. It’s what he leans on even now as he transitions to the pro game.

When discussing the voice that Hennessy has established in recent years, Wiesehan laughed as he recalled that he told the Falcons Hennessy’s voice might be a little subdued in the beginning.

“I was like, ‘This is a guy who’s going to go in as a rookie, and he’s going to shut his mouth,'” Wiesehan said. “He’s going to know every answer to the test, but he’s not going to be self-absorbed. He’s very self-aware. He understands a room of veterans and where he’ll fit in that room, but he will still go out and compete his butt off and won’t bow down to anybody, but he really has that self-awareness.”

But Falcons coach Dan Quinn praised Hennessy even early in camp as the Falcons worked to establish him in the competition for the starting left guard position, where Quinn is not quite ready to name a starter.

Hennessy has been featured there numerous times during the past few weeks of training camp, hoping to beat out James Carpenter for the spot. Quinn said the staff has thrown a lot of things at Hennessy during this training camp period without the cushion of any preseason games to fall back on. The Falcons are relying on rookies such as Hennessy, A.J. Terrell and Mykal Walker to make a difference immediately. That means they had to hit the ground running at the start of camp. Quinn said Hennessy, in particular, keeps answering each challenge tossed his way.

At Temple, Hennessy was a decorated center, but the Falcons don’t really need him at center with veteran Alex Mack holding down that position. Funny enough, Hennessy said when he was making the move from tackle to center from high school to college it was Mack’s film that he really gravitated toward. Now teammates, Hennessy said he benefits greatly from just being around Mack every day and that he wanted to mimic Mack’s gotta-get-it-done attitude then and now.

During the offseason when the rookies were learning all of the nuances of the Falcons’ scheme remotely, Hennessy said Mack checked in on him almost every day. Mack made sure Hennessy was up to speed on everything and answered his questions. Sometimes, Hennessy said, he wouldn’t know what question to ask, but Mack asked and answered it for him.

“I have never been around a teammate who goes out of his way to help other people like that,” Hennessy said. “It’s been pretty remarkable.”

In terms of making the move from center to guard, Wiesehan said it’s actually a move that could be beneficial to Hennessy in his first year in the league. While there has to be significant communication across the offensive line, there’s a lot of pressure on the centers to make the initial calls and adjustments and pass that information down the line.

“I think for him to go play guard, there’s a little bit of relief there for a rookie,” Wiesehan said. “There’s a little bit of relief where he can just go out, get the calls, play football and play fast.”

Wiesehan also noted what Hennessy said about playing beside Mack: It can bring only good things the rookie’s way.

“Alex has been one of the best centers in the game for a long, long time. … For Matt to be in the same room with a guy like that and playing next to a guy like that,” Wiesehan said, “it’s only going to help him ascend.”

And Wiesehan has had a firsthand account of Hennessy’s ascension since he first saw him at that high school camp those few years ago. The two have remained close since.

When asked about his relationship with Wiesehan, Hennessy said Wiesehan has been there every step of the way, even when Wiesehan left Philadelphia to follow Geoff Collins to Atlanta when he took the head coaching job at Georgia Tech in 2019. The two talk a lot; they talked through all of the pre-draft jitters and continue to talk with training camp well underway.

“He’s able to give me all the reminders I need just to stay in a good place mentally,” Hennessy said.

From Wiesehan’s perspective, there’s one story that sticks out the most. It’s the night Wiesehan took Hennessy to the hospital in 2018.

During a Friday walk-through before a Saturday game, Wiesehan noticed that Hennessy was in some discomfort. Asking him what was going on, Hennessy noted pain in his side. Wiesehan said Hennessy is the type of player who if he gets dinged up, you never would know it unless you looked at the training chart and saw that he went to the trainer for something. He just never complains about anything. So when Hennessy noted his side was bothering him, Wiesehan took him to the trainers and team doctors.

With everyone coming to the same conclusion that everything seemed fine, Hennessy played the next day. Wiesehan said he actually played, grading out to a 93 or 94 if he remembers correctly.

But a couple of days later, as Wiesehan sat at the Temple facility going over the run game for the week ahead late on a Monday night, he got a call from Hennessy. He was in more pain, so Wiesehan jumped in the car and took him to the hospital. Wiesehan remembers the concern he had, as Hennessy was in obvious discomfort, but the two stayed up all night chatting and bonding in that hospital room. The undisclosed issue wasn’t serious — Hennessy was back on the field playing as if he had never missed a beat two weeks later — but Wiesehan still remembers that night well.

“That’s one that sticks in my mind about how much I love that kid,” Wiesehan said. “I will never forget that: how concerned I was, how concerned his parents were, and then he comes back and plays great a couple of weeks later.”

Wiesehan has seen Hennessy play in game after game, and even now, as Hennessy prepares to hopefully start for the Falcons in his rookie season, Wiesehan has held on to the assumption that Hennessy could be an asset at the professional level. He told his wife so all the way back in 2017. It’s a perspective that’s never changed for as long as he has known Hennessy.

“(There are) those moments where you’re like, ‘This kid’s got that “it,”‘” Wiesehan said.

Practice observations and notes

• Mack and Todd Gurley did not practice Wednesday on a scheduled day off for the two. Marlon Davidson, Olamide Zaccheaus and Qadree Ollison also were out, all sidelined due to injury. Davidson is still resting a knee strain. Quinn said Kurt Benkert was excused from practice Wednesday “for the very best of personal reasons.” His wife is expecting the couple’s first child and posted to Instagram on Tuesday that it might be her “last bump photo,” so take that information as you will.

• The Falcons are continuing to play around with a bunch of different defensive line combinations. Allen Bailey, John Cominsky and Steven Means were in heavy rotation with Dante Fowler Jr., Grady Jarrett, Tyeler Davison and Takk McKinley. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Charles Harris also got some quality playing time on Wednesday.

• The Falcons spent much of Wednesday working on third-down and red zone situations, particularly a couple of yards from the goal line. In the latter of those periods, Walker got to the quarterback quickly on a blitz, and it likely would have been a sack in a real-time situation. Also in that period, LaRoy Reynolds came up with a big stop on the 1-yard line, crashing pads with Ito Smith, who was trying to cut back through the gap.

• The Falcons worked on field goal formations on Wednesday, and Younghoe Koo was 5-for-5 in his attempts.

 

 

Just imagine our oline in 3 years if everyone lives up to potential 

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23 minutes ago, octoslash said:

I sure hope Hennessy isn't sitting around reading his own clippings because there is so much praise for him, it could set him up for a rude NFL awakening.

I've no doubt he's going to be a decent player though, but we can't expect a pro bowl rookie season.   

I don't think he is that type im excited our line might be really good come mid season maybe sooner

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It's weird they keep saying we're relying on big things from Terrell, Hennessy and Walker.  I don't know why Davidson keeps getting skipped there.  I'd imagine they're expecting and counting on big things from him.

I think Hennessy will have the mental game down, and the movement.  My big question on him is just if he has the power to hold up to someone coming straight at him.  We can't have our OG get pushed back into the QB constantly.  If he can develop the base to keep from moving backward, I think he can be a really good player.

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