Jack Hennigan had never heard of sprint football before his first visit to Franklin Field. Four years later, the senior linebacker is the behind-the-scenes leader of Penn sprint football.
Hennigan, a native of Manchester, Mass., excelled as a two-sport athlete in high school, lettering in both football and lacrosse. Hoping to continue his football career, Hennigan attended several football camps, including one for Penn’s varsity team. While the camp ultimately led to Hennigan’s recruitment, it wasn’t for the team he originally planned.
“I came down to Penn during the summer [of] my junior year for the big team’s football camp and [had] never heard of sprint before,” Hennigan said. “[Coach Bill Wagner was] on the sideline [and] just pulled me off to the side, told me what sprint [football] was and started recruiting me from there.”
From the moment he stepped onto the field, Hennigan was a playmaker. In his freshman year, he tallied two interceptions in four games as a defensive back on Penn’s 2016 Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) championship team. For Hennigan, his freshman year went on to define the rest of his time at Penn.
“My freshman year, [I] came into a team that had a mission and had a goal. They were [an] unbelievable leadership team, so they taught me a lot, [and I] try to emulate what they did,” Hennigan said. “That senior group my freshman year really helped to shape the rest of my three years here.”
After his freshman year, Hennigan's role on the team continued to grow. In his sophomore year, Hennigan tallied 20 tackles and an interception in seven games. He built on that success with a strong junior year in which he recorded 17 tackles, one sack, and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Even with impressive stats, Hennigan’s strongest contribution to the sprint football team has been his versatility.
“Every year, [Hennigan has] a bigger and bigger role with the team. [He] started out as a defensive back, moved to linebacker, and eventually moved to defensive line,” senior linebacker Matteo Murgia said. “It’s wherever the team needs him. He does that role well.”
This year, Hennigan has occupied a consistent spot on the defensive line. Through only five games, the senior has recorded 19 tackles, four of which have resulted in a loss.
In spite of his strong on-field performances, Hennigan chooses to remain focused on the success of the team and his love of the game. To Hennigan, as long as plays are made, it doesn’t matter who makes them.
“You can see it in practice when we might have a slow start or something, and Hennigan’s always the guy that says ‘Guys we need to pick it up, we need more energy, we need more effort in this practice,’” defensive line coach Sam Biddle said. “You can tell that he just loves to be out there and play football. He’s a smart kid that you know you’re going to get a 100% effort every play.”
After their recent loss to Navy, the Quakers were eliminated from CSFL title contention, leaving only two more games in Hennigan’s playing career. Although his on-field journey may be coming to a close, he is determined to maintain close ties with the Penn sprint football community.
“[I] can’t wait to come back next year for the alumni game and play in that. [I] absolutely will keep in touch with all the guys as they continue their careers here,” Hennigan said. “[I’ll] try to come back for as many games as possible. [I’m] looking forward to the next chapter.”
If one thing is for certain, it’s that Hennigan’s life has been shaped by his experiences playing sprint football. Through sprint, Hennigan has found a family, a purpose, and a love of the game.