For Taylor Hennigan, Tennessee Tech has always been a part of his life.
When he was growing up, his father, Mike Hennigan, was the head coach for the Golden Eagles. The younger Hennigan later played for Tech, then, even coached on the staff.
Now, after a stint as an assistant at nearby White County High School, Hennigan is coming back to Tennessee Tech, joining head coach Dewayne Alexander’s staff as the Golden Eagles’ cornerbacks coach.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Hennigan said. “I’m very excited. Obviously, this is home and I’ve been here and around here for a long time.”
In what seems to be a common thread on Alexander’s staff, Tennessee Tech means a lot to Hennigan as he spent much of his young life at Tucker Stadium. For Hennigan, Tech is literally home for him.
“It’s always felt like home,” he said. “From playing here and being around here when I was little, seeing players come through and being involved in a lot of different ways, it’s always felt like home. I’ve lived in Cookeville my entire life, so to be coming back to Tech, I can’t help but be excited.”
Alexander said, “Taylor and his dad, Mike, have the distinction of being the only father and son combos to win an OVC championship at Tennessee Tech. Mike won it as a player in 1972, Taylor was on the 2011 OVC championship team. Taylor was an excellent student here, besides being a tough, hard-nosed player.
“It was important to me because not only is Taylor, on his own, an excellent coach, but the Hennigan name is important for me to have in our program as well.”
Hennigan is reunited with Alexander as a coach as the duo previously worked on Watson Brown’s staff. But he’s also thrilled to be a part of the staff Alexander has brought on.
“This is a great staff,” Hennigan said. “I hope to learn a lot from these coaches. Everyone who knows Coach Alexander knows his character and the type of person he is. He’s a really good football coach and he’s won everywhere he’s been. He does everything the right way. I want to a coach like him in the future, aligned with how he is as a person and a coach.”
Alexander said, “I’ve observed the majority of this staff and I’ve seen Taylor coach with my own eyes. I’ve seen him create relationships with his players, I’ve seen the detail that he had. I was very impressed with him here. He’s very thorough and detail-oriented. He’s going to be an excellent recruiter in the areas we want him to recruit at.”
And being from the area does have an advantage that Alexander would like to utilize.
“He also brings his community ties, and we’d like to use that off-the-field,” Alexander said. “We want him to be our community service liaison. He knows this community very well and knows what he can get our players involved in from a community service standpoint. He’s going to be our academic liaison because he was an excellent student-athlete here. He knows (assistant athletic director for academics and student welfare) Dr. (Lance) Jasitt and (senior academic advisor) Leveda (Dexter) because he worked with them when he was a student-athlete.”
The bright side for Hennigan is he does have some great players to instruct on the corners.
“Talking with the coaches who were here and Coach Alexander, I feel like the defensive backs are in great shape,” Hennigan said. “They’re young, but they’ve played a lot and are fairly deep. Josh Cunningham and A.J. Flemister, I helped coach them when I was here previously and I have a good relationship with them. I’ve already met a few of the guys that I didn’t coach and I couldn’t be more excited. There’s a lot of potential and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Mackell Pippen and I’m excited to work with him.
“We did have success at that position when I was here before. Hopefully, we can build on their careers and we’ve got some senior leadership now with A.J. He’s played a lot of football here, and from what I’ve seen from following along the last couple of years, we have some really talented players here.”
Hennigan will work with defensive coordinator Donnie Suber, who came over from Cumberland.
“I’ve already started talking with him before this week, and I’m really excited to learn from him,” Hennigan said. “I’ve watched his teams play. They always play hard and they always know what they’re doing. That’s important when you play defense. Hopefully, we’ll help this defense reach its potential. I can’t wait to get started.”
Hennigan is a former Golden Eagle himself, playing four seasons. He went from an inside receiver as a freshman to a free safety as a sophomore, while also fielding the long snapper position. Learning new positions wasn’t an obstacle – he played six different positions as a three-year starter and team captain at Cookeville High School.
He graduated from Tech in 2013 with a degree in exercise science, physical education and wellness. He is married to his wife, Hailey.
With the way the timing of the coaching hires fell, the coaches are all pretty much hitting the ground running.
“For me, I’m just trying to build relationships with those guys that I don’t know,” Hennigan said. “We want them to know that we are here for them. Obviously, we want to promote the university and recruit the best we can. We have a staff full of great coaches and recruiters. There’s a lot of Tennessee ties, lot of Tennessee Tech ties on this staff.”