Alex Mack has been among the best centers in football for the better part of a decade, putting together a career worthy of the Hall-of-Fame. Beginning in 2016 with Atlanta, he made the Pro-Bowl in his first three seasons and was named an alternate this past year. But despite his success on the field, it has been his attitude as a leader in the locker room that has perhaps had the most significant impact, and his recent comments about Atlanta’s newest offseason acquisition — Matt Hennessy, a center out of Temple — exemplify that to perfection.
Most veteran players, especially ones that have performed at the top of their profession, aren’t thrilled when their potential replacement is drafted — but not Alex Mack. He’s embracing the role of a mentor and is fully prepared for whatever happens next. In a recent piece by ESPN’s Vaughn Mcclure, Mack commented on the addition of Hennessy and how he plans to help him as he makes the jump to the NFL.
“I told him like, ‘Hey, glad you’re on the team. I’ll help you as much as a I can,”’ Mack said. “And I don’t know. Will he play center in the year? Will I be out of the league? Will I be on a different team? Will I still be a Falcon? The future is unknown there. But it’s my duty to help him be as good as he can be. If he’s a teammate or a former teammate, if I can help the younger guys learn more, it only helps you. It makes me a valuable part of the team to be able to coach people.
“And you want good people next to you. If he ends up being the left guard and I helped him a lot, well that helps me. If I get hurt and he steps in and plays awesome at center, well all my teammates that I care about now have a better [prepared] center. I’m fortunate to be in a position where if I coach him so well and he takes my job, well, I’ll be OK. I’ll survive. I’ll move on. I’ll retire from football or I’ll go somewhere else. I’d love to be able to have the right attitude and help.”
That’s about the best possible attitude you can have regarding the situation and another reason why Mack should be mentioned with some of the Falcons all-time greats whenever he decides to hang it up. When Atlanta acquired him back in 2016 to a five-year deal, his impact was immediately felt in Kyle Shanahan’s system, and he was a vital piece to their Super Bowl run in his first season. The Falcons offensive line hasn’t been nearly as consistent since then, but Mack has been a rock in the middle. And even though he’s entering his 12th season in which he will turn 35-years-old, he’s not so sure it’s time to hang it up.
“Going into Year 12, I feel pretty good and excited for it, ready to take it on,” Mack told ESPN. “I’ll play the year out, see how I feel — how my body works and how much I’m enjoying it — then make the decision at the end of year if I want to keep going or what. The future is unknown, and that’s the way I’m looking at it. Every year is one year at a time: keep going, prepare, and play, and do everything as best as I can. Then I’ll see where I’m at.”
Based on his performance over the last couple of years, I’m sure Mack has at least two more quality seasons in him. Whether he wants to put his body through that grind is another story. However, a lot of that may be determined by just how quickly Matt Hennessy can pick up on things.
The former Temple Owl is expected to compete for the starting job at left guard this season but may take over at center in 2021 with Mack’s contract set to expire after this season. Offensive linemen don’t usually garner much appreciation when they decide to retire, but if this is the last rodeo for the veteran center, the Falcons should honor him in every way possible. Mack’s been a truly wonderful piece to the organization, both on and off the field, providing much more value than the $45 million that he signed for in 2016.
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