Excited Hynoski talks turnaround
A year ago, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, Henry Hynoski and his roommates on the University of Pittsburgh's football team had a party to watch the game.
"I was at my apartment in Pittsburgh with my roommates," Hynoski said by phone Wednesday afternoon. "We had pizza and wings."
On Sunday, Feb. 5, Hynoski will be in Indianapolis, playing in the Super Bowl with his New York Giants teammates against the New England Patriots.
It's been an amazing 12 months for the former Southern Columbia High School star, a journey with twists and turns, setbacks and triumphs and now, an amazing finish, win or lose.
"It's been a real experience," said Hynoski, who earned the starting fullback job with the Giants after going undrafted and signed as a free agent. "Things didn't start the way I planned, but everything has turned out amazing. I'm very, very fortunate. It's something you dream about."
Indeed, it almost seems as if Hynoski has had someone watching out for him.
This is a young man who played on four straight state championship teams at Southern.
"High school was a special time for me," he said. "That's where the winning habit started. That's where I realized how hard you have to work be a winner and to stay number one."
Hynoski's Pitt teams didn't have the same success but he's quick to point out, "We won all of our bowl games while I was there."
And now he'll be playing in the biggest one-day sporting event on the planet. Accordingly, things have gotten a little hectic. Even though the Giants did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, the merry-go-round that accompanies the Super Bowl just slowed down a little; there was no jumping off.
"We had a short meeting today and then had the rest of the day off, but I think you're my sixth interview today," Hynoski said. "I try to set a block of time to do all my interviews and things like that at once, and it's been busy."
Ironically, things might be a little more crazy for a relative spear-carrier like Hyno than for a big superstar, such as quarterback Eli Manning.
"Eli goes and does a big press conference with about 50 papers and TV and radio, and once that's done, he's done," Hynoski said. But for the lesser known players, there are lots of phone interviews and the like, he said.
The disappointment Hynoski endured by watching last spring's NFL draft and not having his name called was offset by roughly half the teams in the league bidding for his services as a free agent.
Then, almost out of the (Big) blue, the team that impressed him most was the Giants, an organization within easier driving distance for his parents and friends than Pittsburgh was, and that's who he signed with.
But as they say, good luck is the residue of hard work, and Hynoski has worked extremely hard to get to this stage, and also has made some very good decisions.
Such as playing for former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh. Whatever critics Wannstedt has, one thing is for sure - he prepared Hynoski for the National Football League. Wannstedt knew the 6-2, 240-pound, 7,000-yard plus-yard Southern Columbia runner's future would be as a blocking back, and told him that upfront. Hynoski took the assessment to heart, added 20 pounds to his frame and went about opening holes for Pitt speedsters LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Ray Graham.
"There's no question he's had a huge influence on me," Hynoski said of his college coach. "He coached the team just like a professional team. He ran the program like that. He ran a pro offense but one that featured the run. The same plays I'm running now, we ran in college basically. The terminology is a little different but it's the same offense."
Then, Hynoski's hard work, familiarity with the playbook and personality in training camp impressed Giants coaches and his teammates, which led to his making the team and earning the starting fullback spot.
Impressed with teammates
Hynoski is just as impressed with the hard work and perseverance of his teammates. Remember, this is a team that was just 9-7 in the regular season, a team that had a four-game losing streak. If the Giants win the Super Bowl, they will be the first team in NFL history to win the league championship with a minus point differential (394-400) during the regular season.
The team had lots of injuries, including a shoulder stinger which cost its rookie fullback six games in midseason. But once the Giants got healthy, things turned around.
"We had starters go down with injuries in training camp and it continued that way until midseason. We were backed into a corner," Hynoski said. "But we've been 100 percent healthy for the last couple of weeks. Every game for the last five weeks has been win or go home. Everybody on the team has dug down deep. Everybody's been going to work early and staying late, putting the time in."
He's even been able to take in stride some of the things he'll eventually cherish years down the road, such as winning his first three NFL playoff games, including a big upset of the Packers at the citadel of pro football, Lambeau Field.
"You have to treat the games like any other game," he said. "If you didn't you start losing your head in big situations, so you've kind of got to block all that out."
But he also said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who led a similar underdog Giants over the Patriots for the title four years ago, makes sure to remind his players how fortunate they are.
"He kept bringing up (Atlanta Falcons All-Pro tight end) Tony Gonzalez. He's been in the league 15 years and has never won a playoff game. And here I am going to the Super Bowl. What are the chances?"