Spotlight finally on Colts’ rookie long-snapper Thomas Hennessy

courtesy @iohudsports

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This was foreign territory to Thomas Hennessy.

The former Duke long-snapper is one of 18 undrafted free agents on hand for the Indianapolis Colts’ three-day rookie minicamp, and found himself the focus of a Friday scrum with the media.

Despite the lack of experience, Hennessy handled himself like a seasoned veteran.

“Never really been interviewed in college,’’ he said with a grin. “There’s the old cliché you should never know the long-snapper’s name.”

“There’s definitely some truth to that. If you can fly under the radar, you’re doing a good job.’’

That’s not going to happen, at least initially.

Among the 70 players on hand for this weekend’s minicamp, only a handful merited more attention than Hennessy. There was:

  • Malik Hooker, the first-round safety who’s still on the mend from offseason surgery. He was a spectator during Friday’s work, but reaffirmed he’ll be ready for the start of training camp in late July.
  • Quincy Wilson, the second-round cornerback who, like Hooker, likely will open the season in the starting lineup.
  • Zach Banner, the fourth-round offensive tackle who’s downright ginormous at 6-9, 350-some pounds. “He’s a giant,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s like an eclipse.’’
  • Trey Griffey, an undrafted rookie wideout and the son of Ken Griffey Jr.

And Thomas Hennessy.

The Colts created the need for Hennessy – or someone else – to contribute immediately when they released veteran long-snapper Matt Overton earlier this month. He had adeptly handled the long-snapping chores since 2012.

Take a team’s long-snapper for granted at your own risk. No one notices until he spirals or one-hops a snap to the punter or holder.

“Until one goes over the guy’s head, costs you a touchdown, costs you a safety,’’ Pagano said.

To this point of his competitive career, Hennessy has been flawless.

In 52 games at Duke, he handled 529 snaps for field goals, PATs and punts.

How many bad ones?

“None,’’ Hennessy replied without flinching.

How many almost-bad ones?

“None,’’ he insisted. “There were no bad snaps. No disasters like bounce field-goal snaps.’’

At a time when coaches are searching for versatility – “positional flexibility’’ is one of Pagano’s terms – Hennessy represents a one-trick pony.

He’s a long-snapper.

Period.

Has been since his high school days at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., where he helped the Ironmen to a three-year record of 35-0 and a pair of national championships from USA Today.

“I played offensive line, not much though,’’ Hennessy said of his time at Don Bosco Prep.

He had aspirations of playing football at the highest levels – Division I, then the NFL – but realized early on that would require specialization.

It would require funneling everything into long-snapping, and that began during his junior season at Don Bosco.

“I knew I probably wasn’t going to go to the NFL as purely a position player, so I picked up snapping,’’ Hennessy said. “I was self-taught through high school.’’

He watched YouTube videos of accomplished long-snappers and spent hours practicing with his dad in the backyard.

Hennessy boosted his stock by attending a nationally-regarded Kohl’s kicking camp after his junior season, and would be among the nation’s top-10 long-snappers after his senior season.

After receiving a random recruiting letter from Alabama, Hennessy realized playing at a Division I school was within reach.

“I thought if D-I programs were looking at me, I really should take a shot at it,’’ he said. “I sent my tape out to every Division I school, trying to get a look. I ended up getting preferred walk-on offers to Duke, Miami, Boston College, and Duke was the best combination of athletics and academics.’’

The Colts were in the midst of a let’s-get-younger-mode offseason, and intent on bringing in competition for the 31-year old Overton. They sent special teams coach Tom McMahon to put Hennessy through a private workout, and the two hit it off.

“Getting to know the special teams coordinator and seeing that I would have a fair chance to win the job here . . . the Colts were definitely the most attractive (option),’’ Hennessy said. ‘I thought I’d get a fair shot.’’

With Overton no longer in the mix, the long-snapper position probably is Hennessy’s to lose.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.