Very rarely does an undrafted long snapper generate much attention. But then again, very rarely does an undrafted free agent have such a clear chance of not only making the 53-man roster but playing a significant role.
That’s the situation that Thomas Hennessy finds himself in as he participates in the Colts’ rookie mini-camp, however, as it’s not just his job to win but also seems to be his job to lose.
He’s not the only long snapper in camp this weekend, but he’s the one with the best shot of winning the job. His only competition thus far is California’s Bradley Northnagel, who is working with the Colts on a tryout basis this weekend. Hennessy, however, was signed by the team, and not only that but the Colts also cut Matt Overton and Joe Fortunato, the other long snappers on the roster. So it’s safe to say that Hennessy stands a pretty good chance, and there’s a lot to like about him.
“Good length,” Chuck Pagano said. “Great velocity. Accurate. He’s all get out. He’s a good athlete. Those guys don’t generally have to get down the field and make a bunch of plays. They affect the return more than anything else, but he’s got some really good traits as far as a long snapper. Again, he’s accurate [with] velocity on it. He was anywhere from 6.8 to 7.2 [seconds] snap after snap after snap. You look at PAT and field goal and you’re always looking for a guy that can spin it back there and throw it back there. The laces are facing the uprights and he’s very, very consistent at that. The other guy [Bradley Northnagel] that we have in here did a nice job. We have another guy competing with him. We lost a really, really good player in Matt [Overton]. A horseshoe guy. Everybody knows how much we love Matt and what he did for this organization. He’s a selfless guy, you know that. It’s going to be interesting to see how it works out.”
Hennessy played in 52 games during his collegiate career at Duke, playing a total of 545 snaps as the long snapper for four seasons. He’s excited about the chance he has now, competing for a spot with the Colts.
“Yeah, I’m definitely excited about the opportunity through talking with Coach [Tom] McMahon and Coach [Chuck] Pagano,” Hennessy said Friday. “The Colts seem like a first-class organization. Everybody in this building has treated me really well so far. So I’m really excited to be here and just get to work.”
Hennessy actually had a few different teams interested in him as an undrafted free agent, but he choose the Colts because of the real chance he would have with them.
“I had a private workout with Coach McMahon,” he explained. “And getting to know the head special teams coordinator and seeing that I would have a fair chance to win a job here – the Colts were definitely the most attractive. Just getting to know the coaches and also the opportunity here.”
Now it’s up to him to capitalize on the opportunity. Again, there’s competition for him in rookie mini-camp and the Colts might bring in another long snapper to keep up that competition as the offseason goes on, but Hennessy definitely looks to be the favorite for the job of replacing Matt Overton. That’s an important area too, as he’ll be responsible for setting up Adam Vinatieri and Jeff Locke (or Rigoberto Sanchez) for their kicks. It’s an area that people don’t really pay attention to unless the long snapper screws up. People take it for granted.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Pagano agreed. “There is no doubt. Until one goes over the guy’s head and costs you a touchdown, costs you a safety, whatever. Yeah, it’s very, very important. Tommy [McMahon] does a great job of finding these guys. He does it every single year and he knows the league inside and out. Every year come draft time he knows every snapper. He knows every punter, every kicker, every duel guy that there is. I don’t think there is a guy in the league that does a better job evaluating talent when it comes to special teams than Tommy McMahon. He’s done it before and he did it again.”
Hopefully McMahon’s research pays off with Thomas Hennessy, who’s certainly a player to keep an eye on this offseason for the Colts.