By Christopher A. Pape
To be a professional football player takes skill, grit, determination and an unbridled love for the game - all of which Henry Hynoski, the starting fullback for the NY Giants, has in spades. Having grown up in small town Pennsylvania and making his way through high school and college, he was injured just as he was about to enter the NFL. Yet, Henry wouldn’t have it any other way – it gave him a drive and an awareness of what he wanted most – to play professionally.
Now, a Super Bowl winning player, Mr. Hynoski (Hyno) is ready for more – ready to lead the Giants to more victories and ultimately another title. He sat down with us to discuss playing in this high-intensity city, how he overcame his injuries and what it takes to be a professional player.
For his first full length interview, he was gracious, informed and a pleasure to speak to.
Resident (R): You’re not a native New Yorker, so how have you acclimated to the intense pressure that is professional sports in New York?
Henry Hynoski (HH): I actually find it very exciting because I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. My town has a population less than 5,000 and now I’m playing in the biggest and most important city in the country. It went from one extreme to the other; I really love it here. I couldn’t be happier.
R: Do you live in the city?
HH: I actually live in North Jersey. In a town called Secaucus, which is the best of both worlds. It’s very easy to commute to the stadium and only ten minutes from the city. During the offseason, I move back to Pennsylvania and that’s where I do my personal training.
R: Since you mentioned training, what do you do for individual training and what training do you do with the team?
HH: The Giants have an amazing strength and conditioning staff. We lift by position groups – I’m considered a big skill player versus the smaller skilled players; those being positions that don’t play such a physically demanding position as I do. I lift with the offensive and defensive linemen and the tight ends, while the running backs, receivers and quarterbacks do their own training. In the offseason, I’m on a more personalized schedule that is designed specifically for me. I do a high intensity lifting program and a core-agility conditioning program; during this time I workout five to six days a week.
R: Tell us more about the position you play – fullback.
HH: The job of the fullback is to be the lead blocker. But I also carry the ball; I’ve just started to do that more recently – I’m very excited about it. The team is very interested in my services in that area. They also use me as a receiver, in the backfield, to catch passes. Fullbacks in the NFL today are mostly pure blockers, but I’m able to all three things, which makes me a valuable commodity. You don’t get a lot of glory as a fullback, but it’s a very important position on the team. It takes a very multidimensional person; I wouldn’t have it any other way.
R: Growing up, were you always a fullback?
HH: When I was in high school, I was more of a running back because I was a proficient runner. When I got to college, the coaches converted me into a fullback, where I mostly blocked. Honestly, I would take what I would do in the NFL over anything I ever did in high school. I’m having a blast and I’m very honored and privileged to play for such a great team and organization, in the best city in the world.
R: Can you describe the difference between playing in college and in the NFL?
HH: The speed of the game and the players in the NFL is really unbelievable. That was the biggest thing I noticed – everything happens so much faster; the players are much bigger and quite a bit faster. That was the hardest adjustment. I remember my first practice – everything around me was going at 1000mph. The first couple of practices, I was totally overwhelmed. I slowly became used to it and now, of course, I love it.
R: It’s quite well known that you overcame adversity – you injured yourself right before the draft. Can you tell us about that – what exactly happened and how did you get passed it?
HH: I actually graduated and left school a year early for the NFL because I was rated as one of the top fullback prospects in the country. I was supposed to be drafted in the middle rounds, which is high for a fullback – we’re never taken in the first couple of rounds. I was getting ready for the NFL Scouting Combine – it’s the biggest job interview in an upcoming professional football player’s life. We have to workout and participate in many tests to measure your athleticism. Then you meet with the teams’ coaches and management and you must conduct yourself in a professional manner.
My first drill was the 40-yard dash. And I pulled my hamstring while running it. I wasn’t able to finish the Combine; I wasn’t able to workout on my Pro Day at the University of Pittsburgh, so none of the teams were able to see me workout and therefore couldn’t assess my skill level. Because of this, I fell in the draft and actually went undrafted and all of this happened while the NFL lockout was going on; I wasn’t able to sign with a team right away. I had to wait for months until the lockout ended and the labor agreements were finished. That’s when I got the call from the Giants and I made the decision to play here in New York. It really worked out great; I couldn’t have planned it better. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
R: I’m sure you couldn’t imagine playing for a Super Bowl winning team, in your first year. Tell us about that experience.
HH: It’s something I dreamt about as a kid. You can never expect that in the first year you would win. I was very fortunate that it happened so early in my career. There are many great players in the league, who have had amazing careers, who have never won a playoff game. I still look back on it and it doesn’t even seem like reality. I think it’s something that when my playing career is done, I’m going to look back on it and realize just exactly what happened.
R: Isn’t it true that you made a very important play during the Super Bowl?
HH: I recovered a fumble and honestly it’s something that you don’t think about. It’s pure reaction – I’m trained to pick it up before someone else does. I tried to get there as fast as I could and it proved to be a very important play of the game.
R: Turning to this year, how do you like your prospects for a repeat?
HH: Personally, I feel amazing. I think I’m in much better shape, better condition compared to last year. I feel – bigger, stronger, and faster than last year, even though I weigh ten pounds less. I’m having a better start to the season. From a team standpoint, I’ve never been around a group of guys that are so focused and determined to make a repeat. We want to get back to the big stage; we want to have that feeling of victory that we had a few months ago. Everyone is working extremely hard to make that happen again. •