Georgia Tech-Falcons information exchange led to Matt Hennessy pick in third round

Temple offensive lineman Matt Hennessy (58) walks onto the field before an NCAA football game against Bucknell at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Corey Perrine)

Credit: Corey Perrine

Credit: Corey Perrine

Temple offensive lineman Matt Hennessy (58) walks onto the field before an NCAA football game against Bucknell at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Corey Perrine)

In early March, before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was huddled off to the side with Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins at the school's Pro Day.

For about 20 minutes at the Brock Football Practice Facility, they were discussing all things Matt Hennessy.

“I definitely did,” Dimitroff said. “I talked to him at the Pro Day, and we had a good discussion about (Hennessy). Coach Collins was very, very positive about him and so were some of his staff.”

Collins also later spoke with Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who was not at Tech's Pro Day.

“He knew what a special competitor he is,” Quinn said. “We (spoke) to him obviously about that; the group that he had and the insight that he could provide us. It's been a good relationship.”

With the background work completed, the Falcons selected Hennessy in the third round (78th overall) of the NFL draft Friday. He will start out competing for the starting left guard position and possibly take over at center in the future.

Collins, who was the head coach at Temple in 2017 and 2018, gave Hennessy a glowing recommendation.

“I just think the world of him,” Collins said. “His work ethic. His determination. His character. His attention to detail and also his athleticism to play wherever the opportunity unfolds there at the Falcons. I have full confidence that Matt can play anywhere that they need him.”

Hennessy enjoyed his time playing for Collins.

“He’s an awesome one and somebody I’ve kept in touch with throughout this process,” Hennessy said. “Really all of the guys from the Georgia Tech organization I’m extremely close with.”

Collins doesn’t think Hennessy will have a problem starting out at left guard.

“He’s highly intelligent,” Collins said. “Very flexible. He’s been able to adapt to any situation and be able to do it at a very high level.”

While at center, Hennessey, who was headed to Yale or Harvard before Temple offered, called the blocking signals and defensive fronts.

“He sees the game like a quarterback,” Collins said. “He prepares for the game like a quarterback. He’s very methodical, very meticulous in his approach game. But the cool thing is, once you put the ball down and it’s time to play, he still has that edge, that toughness that teams look for.”

At Temple, the coaches give single-digit numbers to the players who exhibit toughness, physicality and work ethic. Hennessy was awarded No. 3.

“Just to stamp how tough he was,” Collins said. “Now, obviously as an offensive linemen he couldn’t wear the single-digit jersey (in games). But every single day in practice, while we were there, he would rock that No. 3. It was real cool to see him rocking that single digit. He made it look good.”

The Falcons had a slew of scouts and assistant coaches at Tech’s Pro Day even though they just had a modest group of NFL prospects.

“Just that relationship piece that we try to offer up to every single NFL team, we have an open-door policy,” Collins said. “We want NFL scouts in. We want them to see what the Georgia Tech student-athlete is made of.”

Hennessy was converted to center after playing right tackle in high school and starting his career as a left guard at Temple in 2016.

“He can play anywhere across the line,” Collins said. “He’s highly intelligent. I think you guys have seen in the short time that we’ve been at Georgia Tech that we value position flexibility, we stress position flexibility, moving guys around. All across the line offensive and defensively, different skill positions, so position flexibility, cross-training guys, that’s in our DNA.”

Hennessy’s move helped him and the Owls.

“He does such an unbelievable job with film study, understanding all of the intricacies of the offense from the center position,” Collins said. “We thought he really could affect the game for us the last two years.”

Dimitroff said there were four really good centers in the draft.

The Saints took Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz in the first round (24th overall). Hennessy was the second center taken.

LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry was taken five picks later by Denver. Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz went on the last pick of the fourth round (146th overall) to Dallas.

“We thought wherever they were going to play out, we really like where we are with Matt,” Dimitroff said. “Matt was the kind of guy, again, with his versatility, his athleticism, his full-package deal that we were really focused on him being the one that we thought we were going to have an opportunity to get.

“We and a lot of people had him ranked in that second-round area. ... To pull him off the board in the third round, we feel like was very fortunate for us.”

James Carpenter was the opening-game starter at left guard last season. Wes Schweitzer and Jamon Brown also saw action as Carpenter missed time with a groin injury and a concussion.

“(We’ll) see (how) it plays out as we're going through it,” Quinn said. “I think one, what was great about the staff -- to go through this player and have the traits to know that he’s an interior player, a center and a guard.”


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