Senior Spring: Jack Heneghan ‘18 refines game to lead Big Green to second place finish
From a last place Ivy League finish last season, Big Green football rebounds under Heneghan’s leadership
Jack Heneghan ’18 completed 185 of 293 attempts, for a 63.1 percent completion rate this season, a four percent improvement from last season.
Dartmouth football improved in the 2017-2018 season, going overall 8-2 and 5-2 in Ivy League play under the direction of quarterback and tri-captain Jack Heneghan ’18. Though the Big Green struggled in its previous season with an overall record of 4-6 and a last place finish in the League, Heneghan entered this season needing 10 passing yards to move into Dartmouth’s top 10 all-time quarterbacks and 236 yards short of becoming the ninth quarterback in Big Green history with 3,000 career passing yards.
Heneghan, a recruit from Menlo School in Atherton, California, was not always such a dominant force on the field. Rather, he grew into his role through experience and mentorship. Heneghan recorded no playing time his first year with the Big Green and played in only two of 10 games his sophomore year, where he threw for a total of 39 yards and completed five of 10 attempts. With the graduation of then-quarterback and former tri-captain Dalyn Williams ’16, Heneghan appeared to be the Big Green’s newest starting quarterback.
In his junior season, Heneghan started all 10 games and threw for 2,725 yards, completing 247 of 414 throws for a 59.7 percent completion rate. He also recorded 14 touchdowns, 11 passing and three rushing, and 14 interceptions. The following year, Heneghan threw for 2,136 yards, boosting a 63.1 percent completion rate and recorded 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Heneghan says that since he came to Dartmouth, his game has improved in all aspects, including his footwork, attention to detail, arm strength and accuracy.
“I definitely got stronger and faster through the help of our great athletic training staff but a lot of the development for me happened on the field,” Heneghan said.
Wide receiver Hunter Hagdorn ’20 said that Heneghan’s improvement has come not only from his game experience but also through his efforts to advance his knowledge by watching films and working one-on-one with individual players.
“People give [Heneghan] a lot of slack for his junior year, but he was a really good quarterback and we had to play from behind in our games a lot,” Hagdorn said. “We have to take risks at that point, and that year our risks didn’t fall our way. This past year it was the exact opposite. [Heneghan] just corrected the mistakes that he made last year, whether it was throwing into specific windows that sometimes you just can’t throw into or decisions on first and second down versus third down.”
In addition to a drastic improvement and refinement in Heneghan’s game, he was also named tri-captain to the team his senior year alongside defensive end Jeremiah Douchee ’17 and safety Kyran McKinney-Crudden ’18. For Heneghan, being voted tri-captain was one of the biggest honors of his Dartmouth career, athletic or otherwise.
“It was a group of over 100 guys that were my closest group of friends, not just at Dartmouth but anywhere, and to be selected alongside two impressive co-captains to represent them was a huge honor,” Heneghan said. “I was really thankful that my teammates thought of me in that way and I looked at it as a challenge to keep working hard and maintain and re-earn their trust and respect.”
Hagdorn added that coming into Dartmouth, he was immediately drawn to Heneghan’s leadership, even before he was voted captain, because Heneghan’s work ethic is unmatched.
“[Heneghan] is one that leads by action more than anything,” Hagdorn said. “When we would be at practice, he’s the first one to be lined up on the ball and getting everybody together, making sure that everybody knows the play and that the whole offense is in sync each and every day. He makes sure that he’s accountable for all his actions, right or wrong, on the field, and with somebody like that as a captain it makes you take a look at yourself and make sure that you, as well, are accountable for even the smallest things.”
Heneghan comes from a long history of football, so it seemed only natural that he would pick up the sport. Heneghan started playing flag football in the third grade and picked up tackle football in fifth grade. He was drawn to the sport because he didn’t want to be left behind as his friends started playing.
Heneghan’s parents were also football fans, and while they didn’t push or force him into playing football, it was something he was always exposed to. Both of Heneghan’s parents graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Lal Heneghan, Jack Heneghan’s father, was a tight end for Penn from 1981 to 1984, earning three Ivy League Championship titles during his time. Heneghan’s father was also named co-captain and selected for the All-Ivy team during his senior year in 1984, and has worked for the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the NFL League Office.
“From the time I could even remember I was surrounded by football so when it came time, I jumped at the chance to play it,” Heneghan said.
In addition to football, Heneghan played basketball and baseball throughout middle school and high school as well as a bit of lacrosse in high school. When asked why he wanted to pursue football at the collegiate level rather than any other sport, Heneghan noted that it came down to a combination of natural build and talent and his high school takeaways.
“The most honest answer was that, of the sports I played, [football] was the one I was good enough [at] to play in college, so that helped make the decision for me,” Heneghan said. “The more serious answer for why I wanted to play football was that I had really good coaching that taught me a lot about the sport and life.”
Heneghan added that he had the opportunity to learn from older teammates from high school who went on to play college football and had, for the most part, positive experiences, including a teammate who was a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2014.
“Learning from those people drew me to wanting to keep working and play at the highest level I could and got me excited about continuing the sport,” Heneghan said.
During his recruitment process, Heneghan participated in camps at Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Davis. He later visited Ivy League schools such as Columbia University, Harvard University, Penn, Princeton University and Yale University, as well as Dartmouth, and also received offers from schools such as the University of San Diego. While both of his parents attended Penn and his father was a standout player for the Quakers, Heneghan chose Dartmouth for the cohesiveness between the athletic community and the larger student body, as well as the College’s academic opportunities.
“I was drawn to Dartmouth for the same reasons most people are: the tight-knit community and the even tighter-knit community that existed and still exists with the football program,” Heneghan said. “One thing that was specific to Dartmouth versus some of the other schools I was looking at was the chance to study abroad and the chance to be fully engaged in the college experience outside of athletics.”
Lal Heneghan added that Jack Heneghan felt immediately comfortable with the Dartmouth coaching staff throughout the recruitment process.
“The trust and enthusiasm [Jack Heneghan] had after visiting Dartmouth and understanding the academic and athletic opportunities made it the best choice for him,” Lal Heneghan said. “It was love at first sight for him, which made it our top choice as parents.”
Heneghan has been able to do it all on and off the field. He earned, alongside nine other Dartmouth student-athletes, Academic All-Ivy recognition for the 2017 fall season. To qualify for this distinction, a student-athlete must maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average and make a significant contribution to their team. Heneghan, an economics major and quantitative social science minor, maintains a 3.79 GPA as of fall 2017. He attributes his success in and out of the classroom to his parents, who have taught him the importance of time management — a lesson reinforced by coaches at Dartmouth and examples set by older men in the football program. While Heneghan wouldn’t consider being a student-athlete un-doable; he noted that the job comes with a lot of sacrifices.
“The one thing that I would call difficult is that there are a lot of other things that I might have enjoyed and did enjoy in the limited time that I got to spend doing them, but had to sacrifice to spend time playing games or practice or training,” Heneghan said. “Sacrificing those things or just sacrificing the chances to do them was a little difficult, but overall, that was a price that I was happy to pay because I enjoyed the things that I did get to do.”
In addition to football, Heneghan is a member of Gamma Delta Chi fraternity and is a research assistant for professor Michael Herron in the government and QSS departments. He interned at a Hanover start-up that helped students get jobs and internships and also participated in the Dartmouth-Oxford exchange program at Keble College during his junior winter term.
Amy Heneghan, Jack’s mom, says that Dartmouth was the perfect environment for him to pursue all of his interests.
“His self-confidence and academic curiosity have grown at Dartmouth,” Amy Heneghan said. “Successfully handling the academic and athletic demands at Dartmouth, while meeting new people and exploring new experiences, contributed to this growth.”
Looking back on his collegiate career, Heneghan points to this year’s Homecoming game as his proudest moment. The Big Green came back to beat Yale 28-27, after being down 21-0 in the second quarter.
“It was great to win against Yale, the League champion this year, [and be] the only team to beat them,” Heneghan said. “Even more importantly, it was indicative of what playing football at Dartmouth has taught me about having faith in the work that you and your team have put in. Results-wise, things weren’t going our way at first, but we were able to turn it around by not losing hope or focus.”
With the season over, Heneghan has enjoyed spending time with friends who were not on the football team.
“The nature of the season and even the off-season when you are still on the team is that your schedule is pretty regimented,” Heneghan said. “It’s difficult to make time to hang out with friends who aren’t on the same schedule, so I’ve enjoyed the chance to work around that.”
Heneghan also hopes to take more advantage of the outdoor recreational activities that Dartmouth has to offer, such as skiing and hiking, which he could not do much of while training in-season.
As to post-Dartmouth plans for Heneghan, a lot is still up in the air.
“In the near term, I’m training to potentially play professional football,” Heneghan said. “I will have a better idea whether I’ll be doing that in the next few months, but should that not work out I’m planning to work in private equity [at] an investment firm I interned with last summer in San Francisco.”