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Appalachian State Standout Joins the Purple: A Chat with UDFA Thomas Hennigan.

                Jimmy Murphy / May 3rd, 2022/

The Underdogs

Throughout the organization’s history, the Minnesota Vikings have acquired their fair share of talent and contributors from the yearly pool of undrafted free agents. This includes the likes of punt-return specialist Marcus Sherels, All-Pro and Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen and even Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle John Randle. Going into the 2022 season, the Vikings roster is still populated with a substantial amount of active roster UDFA’s that have become regular contributors to the team. This includes the likes of fullback CJ Ham, emerging linebacker Blake Lynch and punt-gunner specialist Dan Chisnea. 

This 2022 class of draft picks and UDFA’s marks the first class for new GM Kwesi-Adofo Mensah and it is a class chock-full of highly accomplished young players that are eager to become a part of the new culture being established in the Kevin O’Connell era. Recently, I had the honor of being able to chat with UDFA Thomas Hennigan, a standout receiver from Appalachian State, who is one of the members of this talented incoming class.

Coming of Age

Reigning from Northwest Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC, Hennigan was an accomplished multi-sport athlete.  In conjunction with football, Hennigan was also an all-conference selection in basketball. While football was the sport Hennigan eventually went on to pursue in college, he discussed how football was not exactly in the forefront of his mind growing up. He described how his early years consisted mainly of basketball and soccer and that he didn’t pick up football until middle school. Hennigan went on to share that “by the time he got to high school, he was not even 100% sure about going out for football.” This eventually resulted in the head coach of the football team calling Hennigan’s residence and pitching to him the impact that he could have on the team. 

Following Hennigan’s freshman year, he transitioned into making football a major part of his life. Going into his sophomore year, Hennigan became involved in 7on7 leagues with Team NC Elite based out of Charlotte, and then this eventually culminated into a standout sophomore season that consisted of more than 100 receptions. Hennigan’s standout sophomore season led to college interest to begin to pour in and therefore officially affirmed football as his number one sport thus leading to the following springs and summers being dedicated to mastering his craft. 

At the outset of Hennigan’s junior year, the scholarship offers began to pile in. Hennigan describes however that while there were big schools that offered him such as the University of Virginia and while there were plenty of options to choose from, many of the schools that had offered Hennigan, offered him as a defensive player rather than a receiver. However, the nearby program in Appalachian State believed in his ability to play receiver and along with Hennigan feeling like it was the best fit, the assurance of being able to play the position he thrived at in high school eventually  led the Greensboro product to take his talents to the Sun Belt. 

Homegrown Star

Upon arriving to the Mountaineers, Hennigan would go on to have an immediate impact. As a true freshman, Hennigan started in all 13 games and would go from there to have a dominant 5-year career, terrorizing opposing Sun Belt secondaries with highlight-reel one-handed catches and dominating one on one jump-balls. Hennigan would go on to finish as the Mountaineer's all-time leader in receptions, 2nd all-time leader in yards, and 4th all-time leader in touchdowns. One of Hennigan’s valuable traits he also described was his durability and availability. This Iron-Man mentality manifested itself in Hennigan going on hold the FBS record for most career starts (65). 

The Next Step

Following a dominant 5 year span for the Mountaineers, Hennigan knew it was time to take the next step. He described the anxiousness of draft weekend and how he was mainly trying to keep himself busy as the rounds went by. Following the last pick, Hennigan had still not received a call. However as time went on, Hennigan eventually received a phone call from his agent informing him that he was now a Minnesota Viking and that the homegrown star of Mountaineer football was now going to get his shot at the league. 

When asked about joining the talented receiver room, Hennigan described the initial awe of realizing that he was going to be in a room with the likes of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson but ultimately concluded that he is coming into the locker room with the mindset that has taken him so far already in his career. A mindset consisting of professionalism, being coachable, and working his tail off every single day. 

With mini-camp around the corner, Hennigan is eager and excited to start to get to work for the team and make the most of the opportunity that has been given to him. 

Final Verdict

Minnesota Viking UDFA’s and late-round picks have seen their fair share of success with the franchise. And fans should be excited about the incoming App State star. Hennigan’s combination of being a sure-handed target with crisp route running ability along with also possessing the intangible skills of leadership and a ruthless competitive edge will result in a player who is ready to contribute and make some noise in the Vikings receiver room. 

From contemplating playing football going into high school, to dominating the Sun Belt to now having a shot to become a part of one of the league’s most explosive receiving corps…. Hennigan is ready to showcase his skills and ultimately confirm that the Vikings front office “did not make a mistake in their evaluations.”