Henry Hynoski, the undrafted free agent fullback from Pittsburgh who is trying to win a job with the team during training camp this month, knows exactly why the team brought him to New Jersey.
"They brought me in here to be a battering ram and that's going to be the first thing I do." said the 6-foot-2, 260-pound 22-year-old. "I know what my main role is. I have to line up and block people and blow people up, so that's what I'm prepared to do. Anything else is a bonus."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has been impressed with his work thus far, calling Hynoski "a pure fullback in the pure fullback position. Hopefully, he'll be the physical presence that we need."
With the opportunity he now has with the Giants, the well-spoken, likeable Hynoski is trying to write a happy ending to a scenario in which the beginning of his NFL career did not go according to the script.
After Pittsburgh fired head coach Dave Wannstedt and then went through two coaches in a matter of weeks, winding up with a head coach (Todd Graham) who wants to employ the spread offense, Hynoski chose to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the 2011 NFL Draft.
That seemed like a wise move initially. Early pre-draft indications were that Hynoski was considered the best pure fullback entering the draft.
"I was expecting to go in the 4th-5th round. That's usually where the first fullback goes," Hynoski said. "At that time everybody was telling me I would be the first fullback to be taken in the draft. It just made sense that I should leave."
Only things did not work out that way for Hynoski. He pulled a hamstring running his first 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and still was not healthy enough two weeks later to participate in Pittsburgh's Pro Day. Rather than be the first fullback to hear his name called during the three-day draft, Hynoski's phone never rang. A stunning turn of events.
"Of course I was upset that I wasn't drafted, but that just made me more determined. My parents said this is going to make you stronger, you're going to turn out to be better for this. You get to pick your situation," Hynoski said.
When the NFL Lockout finally ended and teams were allowed to contact undrafted free agents, Hynoski was a popular man. He said he "got calls non-stop from about 15 different teams" before choosing the Giants over one other team. Hynoski did not want to name that team, but it was widely reported at the time that the second suitor for his services was the Baltimore Ravens.
"We were hoping that the Giants were one of the teams we would hear from. It came down to them and another team at the very end and I decided that I wanted to be with New York. It was just the best fit," Hynoski said. "I talked with Coach Coughlin and I liked what he had to say. I think he's a phenomenal coach."
Without doubt, Hynoski has landed in a place where there is an opportunity for him not only to make the roster, but to receive considerable playing time as a rookie. With Kevin Boss gone to Oakland and Bear Pascoe moving back to more of a tight end role, Hynoski is the only pure fullback on the Giants' roster.
"I know I certainly possess the ability to start," Hynoski said without a trace of arrogance. "Fullback is one of those positions, it can go either way in the draft. Obviously the draft didn't work out, but I got to pick my situation here and there's certainly an opportunity. I just need to take it and run with it."
The day I talked to Hynoski was also the day the Raiders announced the signing of Boss. Hynoski had not heard the news until I mentioned it to him.
"Obviously it definitely creates an opportunity. It might indicate that Bear might have to play more of a tight end role. We'll have to wait and see what happens," Hynoski said. "With Kevin leaving that means I obviously have to pick up some slack here."
Hynoski showed good hands during the time I was able to watch practice at the Timex Performance Center last week, catching everything that was thrown his way.
"I feel like I'm a quadruple threat," Hynoski said. "Main thing is going to be blocking, but also I can run the ball and I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can run routes as a slot receiver, too. I did all that stuff in college. "Special teams is the fourth thing I can contribute."
Hynoski had best not count on having his name called very often. In four seasons with the Giants Hedgecock got one carry, a 2008 attempt that got no yardage.
During practices this week, coaches were seen working with Hynoski consistently. Friday night, in fact, while groups of players worked all across the Timex Performance Center fields, Hynoski worked one-on-one with a coach on blocking drills, including one that had him exploding upward into a blocking pad from his knees.
"One of the bad habits I have is I always had a tendency to get up high when I would block," Hynoski said. "In college because of my strength I was able to purely overpower defenders even with a high base. It's a different level now so running back coaches are just helping me get lower."
Hynoski might be a rookie, but he is no stranger to the pro game. He played in a pro style offense at Pittsburgh, and his father, Henry Sr., was a sixth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1975 and played one season, carrying seven times for 38 yards, before shoulder injuries ended his career.
Like many of the young players in Giants camp, Hynoski wishes there were still two-a-day practices during training camp.
"For a position like fullback you've gotta state your case as a hitter. Having two-a-days would give me a better opportunity to go out and show that I'm a physical guy. It would give me more opportunity to go out and hit people, just prove my case," Hynoski said. "At the same time, you stay fresh."
Hynoski grew up in central Pennsylvania.
"I'm a country boy. I grew up in the coal region. Everything was always football growing up in the heart of the coal region. Everybody loves football," he said. "I absolutely love to go fishing, doing those types of things. I love all the country stuff."
The Giants are hoping this self-proclaimed "country boy" can clear running lanes for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, helping them play the power football they love to employ.