Because of Hyno, more local fans now root for Giants
WEIGH SCALES - When it comes to NFL loyalties in the coal region, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and, let's face it, Dallas tend to be the favorites of local football fans.
But now that Southern Columbia legend Henry Hynoski dons the blue and red each Sunday for New York's NFC team, there seems to be a few more Giants fans coming out of the woodwork.
Hynoski, 22, was a starter for the University of Pittsburgh, and after graduating, gave up one last year of college eligibility for a crack at the pros. He went undrafted in April but earned a roster spot with the Giants in training camp this summer and was signed as a free agent to play fullback.
The team is on its bye week, giving Hynoski the opportunity to return home and rest a sore neck a bit - an injury suffered Oct. 9 against the Seattle Seahawks and one that kept him out of last week's game against the Buffalo Bills.
It also allowed him to return to Southern Columbia Area, where he spoke to
elementary students Friday and had his high school jersey No. 27 retired later that night at Tiger Stadium.
On Saturday, he was at the Wayside Inn for an autograph session and shortly after his arrival at 2 p.m., the line of people waiting for a signature or a photograph had made its way outdoors.
Hynoski said he was happy to be home and he showed it, too, as he smiled wide for photos, shook many hands and chatted up supporters young and old.
"I love the hometown area, the community," he said, noting that a Hyno Burger had been put on the Wayside's menu this weekend in his honor.
"It's really good. I'm going to get another one today."
Mom and dad
Hynoski's parents, Kathy and Henry Sr., accompanied their son to the Wayside. It was his first trip home since July.
"I was tearing up the whole day," Kathy said with a laugh when asked about Friday's jersey retirement ceremony, adding that she cried during an assembly at the elementary school as well.
"I don't know how many people told me they're so happy for him not because he's a football player but because he's such a good person, and that made me more proud than anything."
Henry Sr. also played in the NFL, having been drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 1975 NFL Draft.
"I said the biggest thing was don't get caught up in it and don't get overwhelmed just because you're so accustomed to reading about these guys in Sports Illustrated and the newspapers," Henry Sr. said. "They're just like everybody else, but they're the ones who get all the hype and the publicity."
As for advice on the NFL lifestyle, he said he'd leave that up to his son.
"Go out and enjoy yourself but don't get too caught up in it," is what he told him.
Kathy said they've been to all of his games this season and like any mother, she still worries about him staying safe on field.
"He's overcome a lot of adversity, but it made him more determined and more dedicated. I saw what he put into it to get to that level," she said.
"Even if it's short-lived, I'll be happy for him, but hopefully he'll have a nice long career. But he got there and that's the most important thing."
Hynoski talked to Southern's players before their 41-0 win over the Loyalsock Lancers, and head coach Jim Roth said after the game Friday that his former star set the tone just right.
"He didn't talk about this game, obviously," Roth said, referring to the fact that Loyalsock had just one win and Southern was heavily favored. "But he told the kids he was following them as much as he can, and he even mentioned some kids' names and what they've done this year just to show he wasn't blowing any smoke. It took me back a little when he told them that of all three levels of football he's played at, he has more special memories of high school than anything."
Hynoski helped lead the Tigers to four straight state championships from 2003-06, and ran for 7,165 yards and 112 touchdowns, breaking the records of 7,075 and 93 set by the only other Tigers with a retired number, Jerry Marks, who took part in the pre-game ceremony. Marks' rushing total was a state record at the time, since surpassed.
Hynoski was a two-time first team All-State pick and Class A Player of the Year as a senior when the Tigers went 16-0. He ran for a school record 2,407 yards and 42 touchdowns that season. Southern was 58-3 during Hynoski's career, and Roth said he thought Hynoski was injured and didn't play that much in all of the losses.
"It was so much fun for me to coach a kid like that," Roth said. "If there's one word I can use to describe him, it would be relentless. He knew from the time he was little that he wanted to be an NFL player, and he was relentless going about it. I remember I had other coaches come up to me and say, 'He's a great player, but where's he going to play at the next level?'
"Well, he was going to find a place to play. That's just the way he was."
Among the crowd - most wearing Giants hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts, along with more than a few No. 45 jerseys - was a large contingent of players from the Ralpho Raiders midget football team, the same team Hynoski himself played for when he was a kid.
Tyler Kriebel brought his Raiders helmet with him. Dinged up, scratched and marked with a slew of team stickers earned for on-field accomplishments, Hynoski's signature meant Kriebel would soon have to find a new helmet to wear on game day.
"I'm going to wear it tomorrow and then I'm going to get a new one," he said.
Kriebel's mom, Lori, appeared as excited as her son and his teammates.
"Midget football players look up to him. ... He was nice enough to come out to the school yesterday, did assemblies with the kids, talked to them about setting goals and meeting them throughout their lives.
"For him to come back to do this after making it through to the NFL, you know he's a good hometown boy," she said.
Bonnie Rarig, of Catawissa RR, was waiting to see Hynoski with her 10-year-old son, Andrew, standing nearby wearing a replica Giants jersey with Hynoski's name and No. 45.
Her older son, 21-year-old Aaron Adams, played high school football with Hynoski. Rarig recalled how Hynoski visited one winter about six year ago to sled.
"Henry would carry (Andrew) on his back up the hill and he thought that was pretty awesome," she said.
State Rep. Kurt Masser, whose family owns and operates the Wayside, coached Hynoski when he played with the Raiders and joked that it was he who made Hynoski a fullback.
Like most everyone else who spoke of him, Masser told of Hynoski's upbringing and humility.
All told, Masser said he remains an Eagles fan.
"I want the Eagles to win 31-28" when they play the Giants "and for him to score all four touchdowns," he joked.
Sports writer Chuck Souders contributed to this report.