The only undefeated team in Washington? Reilly Hennessey stays perfect for No. 9 Central Washington in DII football
Seven wins, no losses. The Central Washington Wildcats are off to a perfect start in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. In a state full of highly-ranked collegiate football teams, they are the last ones remaining undefeated.
Enjoying some of those bragging rights is Wildcats' first-year quarterback Reilly Hennessey.
Hennessey may be new to the Ellensburg, Washington campus, but he is no stranger to NCAA football. He began his collegiate career in Eastern Washington with the Eagles. Hennessey came off the bench in his first game, facing off against reigning national runner-up Oregon.
No pressure. No pressure at all.
Hennessey responded unlike most red-shirt freshman. He threw for two touchdowns, connecting with FCS superstar and now Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp on both occasions.
“Obviously, I was in a very fortunate situation at Eastern," Hennessey said. "I was able to play early and had a lot of fun.
"It all started with coaching. They were really good at preparing quarterbacks and teaching the game of football. That was something that really stuck with me, always trying to be a student of the game. I use my knowledge of football to help me on and off the field.”
Then things changed in Cheney in 2016. Backed by his desire to be an everyday quarterback, Hennessey turned to his then-head coach Beau Baldwin for advice. Baldwin, a former Wildcats' quarterback himself, had just the place in mind.
“I wanted to play a little more," Hennessey said. "Coach Baldwin actually played and coached [at Central Washington] before he went to Eastern. The night I called him and spoke about options, within a matter of hours of getting off the phone, he sent me a screen shot of Coach [Ian] Shoemaker’s response. It made the process a lot quicker and was definitely the right fit.”
Hennessey is liking the change of scenary. He certainly is adapting well to his new surroundings. An undefeated start and a No. 9 ranking will make everything seem, well, perfect.
“I had no idea what to expect," Hennessey said. "I got here last spring. I’ve been able to learn throughout some wins which has been really nice. I’m glad we are where we are.
“There’s definitely extremely talented players at this level. I’m fortunate enough to have extremely talented players on the team that I am on. It’s been fun getting to use a little more of my athleticism here as well.”
The junior quarterback has settled in and is firing on all cylinders. His last three weeks have been nothing short of sensational: 768 yards passing, 168 yards rushing, a 71 percent completion percentage, 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
It's no wonder the Wildcats are rolling.
“I was thinking about it on the bus ride home this week," Hennessey said. "It doesn’t feel like anything spectacular. It just feels like we're executing. It’s almost a comfortability, getting to know the players here and trusting reads and what the coaches tell us throughout the week. I also think it’s a confidence that not only myself but the team has built over the last seven games. We believe that what we do works, and if we play to our abilities we can be a really competitive team.
“I can’t give enough credit to our defense. It’s comforting. Last week I think our defense started on the wrong side of the 50 for the first three drives of the game and didn’t give up a single point. When the offense can have a slow start like we did, and the defense can do that, it makes our offensive life a lot easier.”
We can look at the stats and see that Hennessey is easily one of the top quarterbacks in DII football. Let's go under the helmet and see what makes Hennessey tick.
Favorite football movie: Remember the Titans. Or I will I admit, every Thursday night in high school, I used to watch Friday Night Lights up to the part where Boobie Miles got hurt and then I would turn it off. I like all the positive energy, and all the hype as he says.
Favorite football team: NFL, I say Patriots. I’m a big Tom Brady fan. College growing up, both of my parents went to Oregon State, so I was a big Oregon State fan.
So, Brady or Manning? Oh, Tom Brady. It’s not even close. Peyton Manning played half his games in his career indoors. It’s funny because Cooper Kupp is a huge Peyton Manning fan, so we would get into extensive arguments about who was best.
Passing Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for regular season victories, Tom Brady is now the winningest QB of ALL-TIME! pic.twitter.com/YCJMteJm7a— NFL (@NFL) October 15, 2017
Quarterback you feel like you are most like: Our receivers coach here, [NFL veteran] Brandon Gibson, he played with Brady his last year before he got hurt. It’s fun to pick his brain about him. He relates me to a Jameis Winston. I don’t think I’m as elusive or as creative as Jameis is. I was telling myself I was like a very cerebral Tom Brady. But coming here I was definitely asked to run the ball a little more.
What's in the headphones pregame: I definitely have a game day playlist on my phone. I have Drake, some Young Thug, a little bit of Rhianna in there. I’m a big Rhi Rhi fan. Definitely a rap guy.
Superstitions: I’m a big Office fan, so I like to say ‘I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious’. I always try to sit on the same seat on the bus. I try to have the same song playing when I walk off the bus. This was actually the first coin toss we lost this year, and I was like, ‘uh oh’, but it turned out fine.
Favorite cartoon: Dexter’s Laboratory. I’m a big Cartoon Network guy. I was never a big SpongeBob guy. I just couldn’t get into it.
Hidden talents: I like to sing. I used to be in choir, and I did the plays. But I kind of went away from that after sports came around. My voice definitely went down after not keeping it in shape.
Favorite thing about being a Wildcat: I like the community. The campus is perfect. I’m outside right now and there’s not a cloud in the sky. With the success we’re having the community is really coming out and supporting us. That’s one of the reasons I came here, this was a program on the rise. And I like being the only undefeated team in Washington.