In 1975, Henry Hynoski Sr. waited to see where his future in the NFL might take him
ELYSBURG - It's been 36 years since Henry Hynoski Sr. went through the NFL draft process that his son Henry is going through now. In that time, the draft has gone from a 17-round, two-day, midweek event with minimal scrutiny, to a seven-round, three-day primetime extravaganza preceded by weeks of hype.
"It's really too much now," Henry Sr. said Thurs-
day as he and his wife, Kathy, discussed his days in the NFL and what young Henry might be going through as the draft began last night in New York. Young Henry, a fullback at the University of Pittsburgh and former Southern Columbia all-stater, is hoping to be drafted. Various scenarios have him going anywhere from the fourth to the sixth round.
"Friday night will be the big night," Kathy said. "His agent still feels pretty strongly that he's going to go in the fifth or six round, which means Saturday. But a lot of what happens on Friday will affect what happens to him."
Henry and a couple of his Pitt roommates, Dan Cafaro and Myles Caragein, spent Thursday fishing and trying to keep occupied and getting ready for today and Saturday.
Different in 1975
Things were a lot different in 1975 when Henry Sr. got picked in the sixth round by the Cleveland Browns out of Temple University, where he also played fullback, but as a featured back who ran for more than 2,000 yards in his college career. But even with those numbers, he wasn't a particularly big name.
"Our quarterback, Steve Joachim, was expected to be a first or second round pick," Henry Sr. remembered. "He was already married and all the media were at his apartment. I was sitting in my dorm with my roommates when my name was called, and a couple of minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was all my teammates with a half barrel of beer. We drank that in about 30 minutes and then went out and really celebrated."
As for Joachim, he was drafted, but not until the round after Hynoski. He spent some time as an NFL backup but never had the starring career many had thought he would. Such are the vagaries of the draft, and the Hynoski family is as aware of that as anyone.
"You just don't know what's going to happen," said Kathy, who has been doing a lot of the groundwork as far as keeping in touch with Henry's agent and various teams. Hynoski has had in-depth interviews with several teams and has been contacted, one way or another, by 23 of the NFL's 32 teams. The New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the teams which have seemed to show the most interest, with New Orleans. Philadelphia, and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers among a second tier of teams showing some interest.
In a way, because he plays fullback, a position which not all NFL teams utilize, it might be advantageous for Hynoski not to be drafted. That way he could work a free agent deal with whatever team he feels most comfortable with.
Wherever he ends up, he will be counted on mostly to block and catch an occasional pass. NFL fullbacks rarely carry the ball more than once or twice a game anymore, and that part of the game has changed greatly since Henry Sr. played.
"I come from the days when the fullback was a running back," he said, a little wistfully. "I've always liked the Larry Csonkas and Mike Alstotts. That's one of the things that frustrates Henry. As big as he is, he's pretty athletic, and he hasn't had much of a chance to show that."
Still, he thinks Henry's coach at Pitt, Dave Wannstedt, did a good job of getting him ready for a possible pro career.
"His role was a little different this past year because Pitt was rebuilding its offensive line," Kathy said. "He didn't have one assignment, like a linebacker, like he did the year before."
"He often had to first pick up a lineman, then get a signal on the fly from a teammate to go block someone else," said Henry Sr. "Because of that, he didn't get to make some of the real devastating blocks he did the year before. But some of the NFL coaches saw what he did this season as a plus."
When Hynoski pulled a muscle doing the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, it hurt on more than one level, said Kathy.
"He had a good trainer and got himself into really good shape, and he thought he was ready to make himself that much more valuable," she said. "But most of the teams that seem most interested have told him not to worry."
Henry Sr. said the NFL combine, if it existed at all in 1975, was hardly worth mentioning. Its forebears, such as BLESTO-V, which was a mini-combine in which five teams (Bears, Lions, Eagles, Steelers and Vikings Talent Organization) pooled their resources to scout more cheaply, were in operation, but there was none of the intense scrutiny of players that there is today.
"They took my height and weight, and Alex Bell, who worked for BLESTO-V, took me over to the University of Pennsylvania to get my 40 time on the Astroturf," he said. "The college teams' pro days were just starting to come around then."
Henry Sr. tends to thinks today's players are analyzed and tested too much.
"Football still comes down to blocking and tackling," he said. "You can take the fastest 40 guy on a track and it won't necessarily matter on a football field."
Hynoski Sr. still stays in touch with many of fellow rookies from that 1975 Browns group, including Dick Ambrose, a linebacker from Virginia, and Dave Graf, a Penn State linebacker.
"Dick played with (Lourdes graduate) Tony Zmudzin at Virginia, and Dave played with Dennis Zmudzin at Penn State, and the best man at his wedding was Dave Klock from Line Mountain. So we had some connections to start with, which helped going into camp."
One thing Henry Sr. clearly remembers is the flight from Harrisburg to Cleveland for the start of camp.
"I flew from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, and then caught a shuttle to Cleveland," he said. "They gave me a playbook which they said we had to study because we were going to be tested on it when we got there. Well, somehow I lost it at Pittsburgh. When I got to Cleveland, I told the grounds crew at the airport about it and asked if their was any chance I could get it back.
"They called Pittsburgh and they found it, but they joked they were going to make copies of it and give them to (Steelers coach) Chuck Noll. I said, 'Please don't bull me about something like that.'"
Henry Sr. is trying to fill the mentor role for his son that he says Mount Carmel's Dan Ficca, who played in the 1960s for the New York Jets, did for him.
"Dan and I would go out and play tennis, and that was just an excuse for us to get together so he could let me know what to expect in a pro camp," he said. As a guy who played professionally, Henry Sr. has mixed emotions about what may happen this weekend.
"On one hand, I'd really like to see him get drafted and make a team and get a chance to make really good money for 10 years or so," he said. "On the other hand, I look at some of the guys who were playing when I played and what's happened to them. John Mackey has dementia, Earl Campbell can't walk, Walter Payton is dead. The game can really take its toll on you."
No matter what happens this weekend, Kathy is proud of her younger 'Hen'.
"He's gotten his degree. The Pitt business school has its graduation this week, and he won't be able to be there, but I'm really proud of him for that," she said.