Glastonbury High School seniors Jack Niland (l) and Jack Hennessy (r) committed to play college football on Feb 2. The commits are pictured with GHS head coach Eric Hennessy.
On Feb. 2 at Glastonbury High School, seniors Jack Niland and Jack Hennessy signed commitments to play collegiate football.
Niland committed to The University of New England (UNE) and Hennessy to Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).
The two have had very different paths to get to this point, but are now both college football-bound.
The Quick Ascent of No-Miss Niland
Niland will kick for UNE in Biddeford, Maine.
It’s an amazing next step for Niland, who had not kicked a football off a tee prior to the fall of 2021.
He had played soccer since he was five before injuries over the last couple of year derailed his soccer career, leaving him without the sport he had spent nearly a dozen years playing.
Serendipitously, Glastonbury football coach Eric Hennessy was in need of a place kicker and boys’ soccer coach Chris Vozzolo suggested Niland.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” said Niland. “I got to be with a great group of guys that supported me throughout all of this.”
Going from kicking a round soccer ball to an oblong football was a bit of an adjustment for Niland, who embraced the challenge.
“It’s a different feel when you have 11 guys rushing at you opposed to one or two on the soccer field. In football it all or nothing, but I’ve welcomed that change and it’s been really fun,” added Niland.
Niland, who joined the team a little late this fall, was welcomed with open arms and immediately made an impact.
He recalled his first week of practice, “I had to have seven days of practice to play in the game and we decided to run a few drills on special teams and this was one of my first times kicking with my holder, so I was understandably a little nervous. I made the first three and we moved it back and within the first week I ended up setting a current high for myself, which is 47 yards. Everyone was so ecstatic. It was an amazing thing to happen because in soccer I never had the whole team cheering me on.”
From that point on his teammates nicknamed him a ‘No-Miss Niland’ and he became the team’s official place kicker and punter.
Within 12 months he’ll go from being a kid without a sport to a college kicker, joining a Nor’easter team that plays in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
Niland said that with or without football, UNE was his next destination.
“They have been my top choice school for a while,” said Niland. “I’m kind of a homebody so I wanted to stay somewhere close to Connecticut. I went up there for an unofficial visit and I loved the campus. [My family] goes up to Maine every year. It’s just a great area.”
Outside of football and soccer, Niland enjoys swimming and tennis. He also plays piano and sings for the Madrigals, which is a voice ensemble at GHS who performs small choral works chosen mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries.
At UNE, Niland will major in biochemistry and join a football program which will be entering their fifth year at the Division III level.
“The thing that excites me is the college experience and I’m really looking forward to that camaraderie between the team” said Niland.
Hennessy Willing to Accept Any Role
Hennessy’s versatility will be welcomed at SCSU in New Haven.
He was recruited as a football player, not necessarily defined by a position. He will most likely be a defensive lineman or tight end for the Owls, but the limitations are endless.
“I’ll play whatever. If they need a quarterback, I can throw a little bit,” the 6’4” prospect joked. “Throughout my high school career I’ve played several different positions and that is something that I pride myself on.”
One thing is for certain, Hennessy is physical and that will benefit him at the next level. He was the team’s lead back when the team physically dominated an undefeated Newington team in week five last year. He helped pave the way for the tandem of Jack Petrone and Matt Daniels as the Guardians rushed for 331 yards.
Hennessy said beating Newington was his favorite moment so far on the football fields because his dad---GHS head coach Eric Hennessy---was the former coach at Newington High School.
“I spent a lot of time there as a kid running around the field. It was nice to be able to win that one. We tried to be more physical than any team we played and we did that against Newington.”
Following the conclusion of his senior season, Hennessy was honored with an all-state selection as a tight end.
After losing his junior season to the Covid-cancellation, Hennessy set out to prove himself this past fall, “Losing my junior year there were a lot of questions. Knowing I was able to get all-state to finish my high school career was a good feeling.”
College football is the next natural step for Hennessy, who has the both the football background and desire to thrive at the next level.
But that wasn’t always the case.
He said that he hated football when he first started playing in elementary and wanted to focus on basketball, which he still plays for the school. However, he slowly learned to appreciate the gridiron sport and cannot wait to showcase his abilities at SCSU.
“In the summer they were one of the first schools to get into contact with me. It means a lot, it means they value me. What sets them apart from some of the other schools was that I could play in Connecticut and help make football better in the state” said Hennessy, who is leaning towards majoring in communications. “It’s another level of football. It’s men now and not teenagers. I want that challenge.”
He’ll join a program that is notorious for keeping homegrown football talent in Connecticut. The Owls are led by Tom Godek, who is a former All-New England player for the program and has been on the sidelines for over two decades, serving the last eight as the head coach.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin