Hynoskis logging plenty of miles
ELYSBURG - During his season with the Cleveland Browns in 1975, Henry Hynoski Sr. got a taste of what life in the National Football League is about.
By comparison, Henry Jr.'s first season in the NFL has been a veritable banquet.
The younger Hynoski and his New York Giant teammates will try to earn a trip to the Super Bowl on Sunday when they take on the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and that's something both father and son find pretty amazing.
"He's real excited about it," Hynoski Sr. said Wednesday night. "I mean, he's one game away from playing in the Super Bowl. We talk several times a week, and we only talk a little bit of shop. He mostly wants to keep up on what's going on around here with the family and things like that, but you can tell that he's really getting excited. His confidence level and enthusiasm are way up there right now."
It's been an amazing year since the younger Hynoski, who helped lead Southern Columbia to four straight state championships from 2003-06, chose to leave the University of Pittsburgh a year early and declare his eligibility for the NFL draft. He went from the low of not being drafted and having to wait in limbo as last spring's lockout droned on, to being signed as a free agent by the Giants, one of the four teams closest to his Elysburg home.
After making the team and earning a starting job at fullback, he had to sit out six games with a shoulder injury and watch the team struggle after a hot start. But the team has caught fire at the right time and has won four straight games, including playoff wins over the Atlanta Falcons and then last week over last year's Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers.
"I think the turnaround was definitely the Cowboy game when they clinched the (NFC East) title," Hynoski Sr. said. "A lot of the guys that were injured got healthy. They must have had a dozen (key) players injured this season. Now those guys are back and they're playing with a lot of poise."
Not the least of those players now healthy is Hynoski. The Giants had trouble running the ball much of the season and not coincidentally, their biggest problems came when Hynoski, the top blocking back, was out.
Hynoski Sr. said his son also gives a lot of credit to quarterback Eli Manning.
"Eli has had a remarkable season," Henry Sr. said. "He's a real field general and directs the team. Hen says all the players have a lot of confidence in him."
On top of the sheer joy of continuing to win, Hynoski has been making sizeable bonus money, no small thing for a player who is making the NFL minimum salary of $350,000. By advancing to Sunday's game, Hynoski is guaranteed an extra $84,000. In the wild card round, division winners earn $22,000 each, and wild card players earn $20,000. In last week's divisional round, every player earns $22,000. This week, all players take home $40,000, win or lose. If the Giants win the Super Bowl, Hynoski would pick up another $88,000. If they lose, his share will be $44,000.
Henry Sr. and his wife, Kathy, meanwhile, have been logging frequent flyer miles following the team on the road.
"We just came back from Green Bay, and we're no sooner getting unpacked and freshened up than we're getting ready to go again," Henry Sr. said. "We've never missed a game since Henry started playing in seventh grade, and we did the same when Mary Frances (Henry's sister) was playing basketball.
"It's been a whirlwind for us, but it's a lot of fun. Other people want to get caught up in it. People come up to us, even if they're not Giants fans, and say they're rooting for them now that their team is out of it."
It makes it even nicer for Henry Sr. that his wife is kind of his own personal travel agent.
"My wife takes care of all the arrangements, the flights, hotel accomodations, everything," Hynoski said, chuckling.
If the Giants do win Saturday, there will be a bit of a chance for everyone to catch their breaths, since there is a two-week break between the conference title games and the Big Game.