Roth recalls early questions about Hyno, expresses pride in likely becoming Southern's first pro
CATAWISSA R.R. - It's hard to imagine Henry Hynoski as a question mark, but coming into the Southern Columbia program, he was exactly that, an unknown commodity.
Four state titles followed, then Hynoski blossomed into a big-time college player with an opportunity to be drafted into the NFL ranks.
The only remaining question is where will he be plying his trade.
"He would have been in elementary school," Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth said, when asked to recall the first time he'd heard the name Henry Hynoski.
"I don't remember, but I don't think he played midget football. He might not have played football until he played for us in the eighth grade. I kind of thought he could be another great back for us in the line of Ricco Rosini, Jerry Marks and Jay Drumheller, but all those guys had played as kids and were very good for their age. Henry was a bit of a question mark."
The fact that Hynoski surpassed all of
those players - in yards, in touchdowns, in titles - wasn't surprising to Roth once he saw how the fullback's talent and work ethic merged.
"You don't expect anyone you coach to make it, but if there's one kid I've coached to ever have a chance, it was him," Roth said.
"It's been a gradual buildup from high school to three years of playing in college at a high level, but if you back up a couple years and look at him possibly being drafted, you could say it was only a matter of time.
"He has a lot of ability. He is in a class of his own by such a wide margin. The word I use the most to describe him is relentless. He had a desire and will you don't find with high school kids, or many athletes in general. He would will things to happen on the football field, and he could adapt to anything. Teams see that, see his positive attitude and character, and because of all that he's getting a lot of attention."
The high school numbers mean relatively little now, other than to serve as a reminder of what Tigers' fans witnessed for four seasons - 7,165 yards, 112 touchdowns and just three losses in four years.
A more current and constant reminder has been the influx of University of Pittsburgh t-shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys being worn by an entire generation of Southern students that have no tie to the school other than Hynoski.
"There has been a lot of support for him," Roth said. "He's still involved with his teammates from school and they follow him because that group was close. This current group of players is removed a bit from him, but I have seen a lot more kids in the hallways at school over the last couple years wearing Pitt apparel. I don't think it's a coincidence. I don't stop them and ask if they have it on because of Henry Hynoski, but I know it is."
That group of fans may find themselves with a new NFL allegiance come this afternoon, and most, like Roth, hope that Hynoski will be calling one of the two Pennsylvania teams home. The chance that could happen is better than average since both have expressed an interest in the fullback.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, for one, have had a chance to watch Hynoski a little closer than most teams, and are probably more keenly aware of the transition Hynoski had to make from a run-first fullback at Southern to an intuitive blocker at Pitt. That transition, and how easily Hynoski has made it seem, still astounds his former coach.
"What was lost in college is the transition he had to make," Roth said. "Fullback in our system is totally different than what he had to do as a fullback in a pro-style offense like they had at Pitt. He had to become a blocker in college, and he's blocking the most physical guys on the field in a dominant way. Many people took that for granted, but he had to work at it. I look at it as remarkable."
That Hynoski has an opportunity to be drafted from a small school in the middle of Pennsylvania farmland, one that's never produced a pro, is what's remarkable. It's a feather in the cap of the entire Southern Columbia football program, even more so than its six state championships.
"The bottom line is it's more about him," Roth said, "but it's neat for the program and for the kids that have been in it. We have had success on the state level, but if this happens, for a Southern player to be in the NFL, it will be a crowning achievement that everyone can hang their hat on."