He heard the stories and knew what he wanted to do. Early on, it became his dream.
Henry Hynoski was going to be a professional football player. His father, Henry Sr., had played with the Cleveland Browns in 1975 and Henry Jr. was determined to carry on the family tradition.
There was just one problem: his parents would not let him play. Hynoski was first eligible to play youth football when he was a second grader, but his parents said no. They said the same thing the next two years and told him he needed more development. Football could wait because injuries were too risky at that point.
"Even though my dad played in the NFL, football was never forced on me. They told me they could not care less if I play football," Hynoski said. "I think that's something really special and to be valued."
Finally, Hynoski convinced his father to let him play when he was in fifth grade. And once Hynoski started there was no stopping him.
All Hynoski has done since has become one of Pennsylvania's all-time great high school running backs, clear holes for the likes of Lesean McCoy at Pittsburgh, earn a starting fullback job with the New York Giants and become a Super Bowl champion as an NFL rookie. The family tradition is stronger than ever.
Hynoski reports for Giants training camp July 26, but he already appeared in midseason mode as he worked out with trainer Babe Mayer Wednesday at Penn College. Hynoski has been working with Mayer, a Penn College professor, since his sophomore year at Southern Columbia and the District 4 legend is eager to build on what was a fairy tale-like rookie season.
"I have a full year under my belt and I'm going in with a lot more confidence. I want to become a better blocker and be a better player all-around and become a bigger threat in the offense.," Hynoski said while taking a break between workouts. "All everyone is talking about is how we want to repeat and that's everything we've been working toward. Last year doesn't matter anymore."
But what a year it was.
Hynoski ended his rookie season, celebrating under a confetti deluge while holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He had reached the summit but traveled a tough road there after not being drafted. Hynoski entered the NFL combine as one of the country's top-rated fullbacks, but the 6-foot-1, 266-pound wrecking ball of a blocker suffered a hamstring injury and the projected middle-round pick's stock plummeted.
Several teams were still
Giants as a free agent soon after. A lockout, though, prevented him from attending OTAs or mini-camp. He could not even look at the playbook until the lockout ended early last August. That meant many near-sleepless nights as Hynoski was up until 3 a.m. studying and then preparing for practice by 6.
It paid off and within a week Hynoski knew the playbook cold. He also made an immediate impression on coach Tom Coughlin who praised Hynoski's work ethic and value. By the third preseason game, Hynoski was named the Giants starting fullback and the undrafted free agent suddenly was one of the key cogs on one of the NFL's best offenses.
"That first week I was running on fumes, but you have to treat every practice like it's a game when you come in completely raw and that was for about a month straight I had to go out there with that mentality," Hynoski said. "All you can really ask for when you're coming out of college is just to get into a training camp. That's your one chance. I had it and ran with it and did well."
Hynoski missed five games around midseason with an injury and when he returned the Giants were fighting for their playoff lives. They lost four straight at one point and were 7-7 with only two games remaining. While many focused on teams like the Packers and Saints as the NFC's best, the Giants remained confident and believed a super bowl was still within reach.
Big wins over the Jets and Cowboys produced a division title before the Giants hammered both the Falcons and defending champion Packers in the opening rounds. An overtime thrilling win over the 49ers followed in the NFC championship and Hynoski found himself playing in a game most can only dream about two weeks later. After years of watching the Super Bowl on TV, Hynoski was playing in it against the New England Patriots and future Hall of Famers like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life," Hynoski said. "Everything I've ever worked for, every weight I lifted, every step I ran came down to that day."
Hynoski basically was an extra offensive linemen, providing punishing lead blocks for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs while protecting quarterback Eli Manning. He did so many of the little things that are crucial to victory but that do not show up in the boxscores. Still, he caught the attention of NFL announcers and Giants fans and coaches with his hard-nosed play.
His recovery of a Hakeem Nicks fumble in the third quarter was hardly talked about but was one of the Super bowl's biggest plays since a Patriots recovery at that point might have helped them start putting the game away.
Instead, the Giants rallied and took a last-minute 21-17 lead. Hynoski had done all he could to win a super bowl ring but in those final frantic seconds the outcome was beyond his control.
"My heart was in my throat when the Patriots had the ball in that last drive. Having the ball in Tom Brady's hands it's always dangerous, but I knew our defense would show up like they had all game doing an amazing job," Hynoski said. "When that last ball was in the air (a Hail Mary into the end zone) it seemed like it hung up there for a few minutes. I saw the ref signal incomplete and everyone just stormed the field and it was unbelievable.
"Having that feeling was so gratifying. Holding that trophy up on the stage with my family after the game and celebrating with my teammates was amazing."
It also was the culmination of 12 years of relentless work. Hynoski was blessed with great talent, but talent does not make one an NFL fullback. He attacked the weight room and film studies the same way he does opposing linebackers. By his freshman year of high school, Hynoski already was a dominant force and he helped Southern Columbia win four straight state championships while running for 7,165 yards and 113 touchdowns. He is ninth on the state's career rushing list and suffered only three defeats in his brilliant scholastic career.
Hynoski always was more than a brilliant runner, though, and he started showing it at Pittsburgh when he became a dominant lead blocker, earning a starting job by his sophomore season. He has only enhanced that reputation with the Giants and is known by fans as "Hynoceros."
The player with a nickname that reflects his playing style once was mocked before a state playoff game against Old Forge. Opposing fans hanged a big banner from the front rails that read, "Henry Who?" Hynoski responded by running for 214 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries as Southern romped to a 48-0 win.
Following the game, Hynoski grabbed the sign and took it home. He still uses it today as a motivational tool.
Since that night, Hynoski has become a statewide Player of the Year, a college star and a Super Bowl champion, receiving that ring last month in a ceremony at Tiffany's. Everywhere he has traveled on his football journey, Hynoski has succeeded, every team he has played with, he has made better.
He is Catawissa's conquering hero.
"If I didn't make it with the Giants I would still be trying somewhere else," he said. "Nothing was going to deny me. I worked too hard. I worked my whole life for this."
That's who Hynoski is.