ELF Championship signal callers: Reilly Hennessey

This weekend, when the Stuttgart Surge face off against the Rhein Fire in the European League of Football (ELF) Championship game, running the Surge out of the tunnel will be quarterback and European veteran, Reilly Hennessey.

Hennessey began his European career three years ago with the Italian Football League’s (IFL) Parma Panthers under head coach Marc Mattioli – currently head coach for the Paris Musketeers. Over eight games in the IFL, Hennessey threw for a modest 1,672 yards, 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions. But his ability to perform in clutch situations when his team needed him the most led to the Panthers going undefeated in 2021 and winning the Italian Bowl.

Shortly after the culmination of the IFL season, Hennessey went to play the back end of the German Football League season with the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. The Unicorns unfortunately lost to the Dresden Monarchs, but the then head coach Jordan Neumann took a liking to the young Hennessey and signed him for the 2022 season.

Over the 11-game regular season in 2022, Hennessey threw for 2,088 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He led the Unicorns into the playoffs and ultimately captured the team’s fifth German Bowl by thrashing the Potsdam Royals 44–27.

During the 2022 offseason, the Unicorns saw a monumental shift in the organization as longtime head coach Neumann departed for the Stuttgart Surge in the ELF and took half his players with him, including Hennessey. This rippled across Europe as one of the GFL’s poster children had departed and the team was essentially gutted. But for the Surge, this brought nothing but optimism and hope after two miserable years in the ELF.

Immediately, Hennessey went to work in the ELF by knocking off one of hottest teams on the block and his old Head Coach, the Paris Musketeers. In a thrilling 29–20 victory, Hennessey threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns. From there, the team went from strength to strength, leaning on Hennessey when they had to, but not asking him to do too much.

But during their Week 4 encounter with the Raiders Tirol, Hennessey picked up an injury that sidelined him until Week 11. Reactivating Hennessey was an uncertainty for many as his replacement had put up mind-boggling numbers. However, when it was Hennessey’s time to return, he did so in excellent fashion and won out the rest of the season finishing with 1,679 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions over seven games.

The Surge flew through the first round of the playoffs and dismantled the Wroclaw Panthers as their defense held the Panthers to just 100 yards through the air. Hennessey, determined to prove any doubters wrong, torched the Panthers’ secondary throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns.

Stuttgart’s biggest challenge however came in the semifinals as they traveled down to Austria to take on the reigning champions, the Vienna Vikings. There were few who thought the Surge would be able to pull this one out the bag, but thanks to some gritty defense and another outstanding postseason performance from Hennessey, Stuttgart secured their place in the final and knocked off one the league favorites. 

Hennessey has amassed 760 yards and seven touchdowns in the postseason, one of those performances coming against one of the best defenses in the league. If he can replicate this performance against the league’s steam train in the Fire, the Surge may make this game closer than many think it will be.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.