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Henry Hynoski Returning Home to Change Lives



Former University of Pittsburgh fullback, Henry Hynoski, is preparing for a return to Pennsylvania. Now that he is retired from the NFL following a four-year career with the New York Giants, the man Panther fans often refer to as “Hyno” accepted an offer earlier this year to become the head football coach and dean of students at Shamokin Area High School. Located approximately fifteen-minutes from his hometown of Elysburg, Pennsylvania, Shamokin is in an area where Henry has plenty of ties; and it was his ties to the area that presented him with the aforementioned job openings.

“One of the local school board directors from the high school presented me with an opportunity,” said Hynoski. “He said, ‘Do you want to be the head football coach?’ And that’s something I always wanted to get involved with. It kind of worked out, because I told him I was getting my Master’s degree in Business Education and Information Technology. So [I asked], ‘Do they have any job opportunities available at the school, also?’ He came back with the dean of students offer and getting right into the administrative side.

“It almost seemed like it was destined, because that’s exactly what I was getting my Master’s degree for. Being a football coach—I know I have to be around football for the rest of my life; it’s in my DNA, it’s in my blood. Football means so much to me, and I always wanted to turn around and pay it forward, and have a positive impact on kids moving forward. So now I’m in a position where I could do that and change kids’ lives for the better, hopefully.”

Hynoski’s positions at Shamokin High School will assuredly provide ample opportunity for bettering children’s lives. As the head coach of Shamokin’s football team, Hynoski will help his players develop the character and work ethic necessary for leading a successful life. And as the dean of students, he will be charged with providing a positive influence to the entire student body.

“It’s basically an assistant principal, so all of the duties that an assistant principal would do,” Henry said, describing his future role as dean of students. “There’s a big focus on discipline and handling all that—dealing directly with the kids personally. I like that because I’ll be able to be in a situation where I can create a powerful impact and help kids that need help, and get them on the right path, and the right track in life. I was fortunate to have such wonderful parents and support my whole life, so that’s something I want to transfer over and help kids that necessarily didn’t have that.”

Hynoski will not assume his positions at Shamokin Area High School until June of 2018. He must first complete his Master’s degree at Bloomsburg University, a mandatory requirement for the dean of students. As was the case in college, this former academic All-Big East honoree will once again balance education with football. Not only will he shoulder a Master’s degree workload, Hynoski will also continue in his non-player role with the New York Giants—a position he earned through hard work, professionalism, and courtesy.

“When I was released from the [Giants] back in 2015, it was kind of a somber day down at the facility, just because I built such good relationships with the coaches and the operations side. I talked to the owner (John Mara) and I thanked him for everything—for all the opportunities he gave me, and for allowing me to live my dream. And he expressed to me that he really appreciated the way I conducted myself on and off the field, and he was very grateful for everything I did for the program. He expressed that he really enjoyed having me around, so he said, ‘Whenever you decide that you’re done playing football, give me a call and I want you to be a part of the organization.’

I gave it a little bit of time with football and had some workouts with some other teams. I thought over that time period, the time off, my body would respond physically and get back up to par from all the orthopedic injuries that I had. And my body just wasn’t getting back to where I wanted it to be to play at the level that I know I could—and that I once have. So that’s when I decided to wrap it up and give Mr. Mara a call. He had a position for me, and now I’m working on the pro-personnel side doing free agency and draft stuff, and player evaluations and reports, and things of that sort.”

Shamokin Area High School is a 25-minute drive from the high school Henry attended, Southern Columbia Area High School. As a player at Southern Columbia, Hynoski was part of a highly successful program that understood what it means to embrace a winning culture; the Tigers won the PIAA State championship in each of his four seasons. While ingraining that winning culture within the Shamokin football program is an obvious goal for Henry—the Indians finished 1-9 in 2016—his true priorities are set on the personal development of his players.

“The number one thing, my main goal, is to change kids’ lives and to get kids on the right path,” he stated. “That’s my number one goal and objective. If we happen to get some wins along the way, that’s a bonus. But number one is changing kids’ lives, helping them get into school, and giving them every possible opportunity to succeed.

“But being a competitor, I do want to win, and I have high hopes, and I have high expectations. The hard work and desire and passion for everything in my life was instilled in me by my parents from day one. Nothing that I ever accomplished or that I’ve done was ever given to me or was handed to me. It was all through hard work and desire and passion and dedication. Those were traits that my parents instilled in me. That’s where it all starts.”

“Being a member of a valued and respected program like Southern [Columbia], instilling that attitude and that mindset from a winning program—from that perspective—to my team, that’s invaluable. It’s just an amazing program that I was a part of, and I’m very fortunate. Southern Columbia will always hold a special place in my heart.”

At Shamokin, Henry will face Southern Columbia each year. In order to compete with his alma mater and improve upon a 1-9 record, a well-orchestrated game plan will need to be in place from day one. This is why Hynoski is already developing the playbook he will employ.

“Whenever I get some free time from school, I’m down at my computer putting my playbook together. We’re going to be old school. We’re going to emphasize running the football, of course. The thing I have to work on most is—because I’ve been a college player and a pro player—not making things too complicated. I’m going to simplify things to what high school kids can handle. But I’m going to incorporate a lot of the values and stuff that I learned in the pros within a high school system that high school kids can handle. I have some really good stuff.”

Aside from schematic preparations, Henry is also assembling a staff which he believes will ensure on-field success. Included on this staff is Henry’s father, Henry Hynoski, Sr., a former standout fullback at Temple with NFL experience.

“My dad’s going to help me coach, [with] his experience that he had through his whole career,” said Henry. “My dad was very inspirational to me my whole life, with football and the success he had. So to have him as part of my staff? I don’t know if there will be better coached kids across the state.

And we’re going to put a great staff together. My strength coach (Tony Scicchitano) that trained me since I was twelve years old all through my whole career, he’s coming on. Our intention is to start a dynasty. We’re all crazy about football. We’re all passionate about football. There’s a lot of people in the local area, a lot of former coaches and a lot of current coaches, that are already getting a hold of me, wanting to jump on staff and jump on board. It’s going to be good. The kids in the program and the school district, they’re going to have a good thing coming their way.”

Henry would not be where he is today if not for his time at Pitt. A 3-star recruit in the Class of 2007, he learned much more that simply how to play football during college. Hynoski—a self-proclaimed “country boy” that still enjoys hunting, fishing, and being outdoors in his spare time— credits Pitt’s campus, culture, and academics for enabling his post-graduation success.

“First of all, Pittsburgh prepared me for the big lights in New York City. That’s the number one thing. I’m a country boy from small-town Pennsylvania. Going to Pittsburgh, it was a little bit of a culture shock at first. But after a few weeks, a couple months of being there and really seeing the true roots and the true colors of the people of Pittsburgh, it actually reminded  me a lot of my hometown area, the values and the blue-collar mentality that town has. Being in Pittsburgh, it prepared me for New York. It wasn’t too hard of an adjustment going from Pittsburgh to New York.

“Academically? I’ll tell you what: I cannot imagine a more demanding school, academically, than Pittsburgh. I graduated with an under-grad in Business Administration, and now my Master’s degree is in Business Education, so I had a great business background and structural values that I learned through the educational program.”

Of course, Pitt’s football program played a little part in his success, too.

“The football program: When we were there, we had so much talent on our team, and so many guys that made it to the NFL. And I played for a guy that coached in the NFL. It prepared me more than I could ever imagine from a football perspective. The guys I was going against in practice every day, they ended up being draft picks that had great careers in the NFL. Some of them are still playing. So many guys I played against in college—I played with in the pros. It was just a highly competitive league, and that definitely prepared me for the NFL.”

Henry added, “I couldn’t have imagined going to a better school to prepare me both academically and football-wise for the rest of my life.”

When listening to Henry speak about Pitt, his admiration and gratitude for the university shine not through his words, but through his tone. Though he cannot condense his fondest memories of Pitt into one conversation, he did share the one thing he misses most.

“I miss everything about it,” Hynoski averred. “I think the biggest thing is walking out on the field with your best friends, knowing you’re about to go into a three-hour battle. You have their back no matter what, and you know that they have you’re back no matter what. It’s a trust, it’s a bond, and it’s something that will last a lifetime.”

Six years later, Henry’s former teammates still have his back. The relationships he formed with his teammates, the relationships he continues to nurture, remain as strong today as they did on Saturdays at Heinz Field.

“The friends and relationships I made there, I’ll never forget them. Lifelong friends. I was just with my college roommates over the weekend. We’re all getting married, and we’re all starting families. About once or twice a year, we all try to get together. I was just with Andrew Janocko, Myles Caragein, Pat Bostick, and Danny Cafaro. And I keep in touch with a lot of guys. I’m still very close with Dom DeCicco, and Max Gruder. Chas Alecxih. You know, all the guys. The relationships that we built, they’re lifelong friendships.

“I was just planning a fishing trip coming up with those same guys I was with this weekend, it’s really a special bond. Special friendships. Our wives, and fiancés in a couple of their cases, they’re all good friends. Our parents are all good friends. That’s the other thing, too. The relationships that my parents built with my friends’ parents, it’s just a tremendous, amazing experience that we would have never had if we didn’t go to Pittsburgh. It’s the Pitt family.”

Panther fans remember “Hyno” for his versatility at the fullback position. His most consistent contributions came as a blocker, where he paved the way for running backs like LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis in Dave Wannstedt’s pro-style offense. He also served as an athletic option in the passing game, demonstrating the ability to confidently see passes in with his hands and turn upfield for some yards-after-catch. However, he may be most remembered for his atypical pre-snap responsibilities under offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, Jr. Now, many offensive coordinators require pre-snap movement from their skill position players to expose the defense’s coverage scheme before the play. Most offensive coordinators, though, would not ask their 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound fullback to line up wide, sprint twenty-five yards to align ahead of the running back, and then act as a lead blocker against FBS-level competition. But while this practice struck many as odd, it also showed that Henry would do whatever it takes to deliver his team an advantage.

“Coach Cignetti is with the Giants now, and we always talk about our days at Pittsburgh,” said Henry. “Every week, we have a conversation about our days at Pittsburgh. We sat down with a couple of the other coaches from the Giants, and Coach Cignetti was telling them how reliable I was, and how I was one of his favorite players of all time to coach—from both an athletic ability as a fullback standpoint, and from a character standpoint, also. He felt supremely confident that whatever he told me to do, I would get it done. Because of my versatility and my athleticism for a fullback, he could line me up in those situations. And you know, I didn’t care. There were a couple times I thought, ‘Why am I lining up out here just to run back in and run power?’ From a coverage recognition standpoint, and the ability for me to line up and run pass routes out there, it really kept the defense off guard.

“I didn’t care what I was doing. I was just happy to be on the field and contributing. They could have lined me up anywhere and I would have just loved it. I enjoyed contact. I enjoyed playing. I wasn’t worried about how many carries or how many catches I caught a game or throughout a season; I just wanted to do my part and contribute. I got more out of making a big block than I did from scoring a touchdown. I was always a team guy. I didn’t really care much about my own numbers and accolades. I just wanted to do my part to help the team win, and I think that was really appreciated by the coaches, and the university, and the fans.”

Henry’s ties to the University of Pittsburgh remain strong, and only figure to grow now that his NFL career is officially over. To this day, the football program remains in touch with its former fullback, and he remains up-to-date on his former team.

“I actually was honorary captain this year at the Pinstripe Bowl. Whenever I get a chance, I try to get back. Now that I’m done playing, I can get back to a few games. I was at the Penn State game this year. When I was playing, it was tough getting back for games but I always kept up with everything. But now that I’m finished, I can be more involved like I always wanted to be. It’s still tough, because I still have to be there for the Giants’ games. The dates have to work out. But I always keep up.

“I think Coach Narduzzi is the right man for the job. Every time he comes into New York City—him and [Pat] Bostick, and some of the other administrators on the athletic side—they take me out to Quality Italian. It’s one of the best restaurants in Manhattan. We just have a good time, a good talk, we eat some good food, and talk about the program and what it means to us in the future. I like to be involved in that capacity, also. I’m very happy that Pitt and the administrators, and the people involved with the athletic program, view me in that light and think enough of my opinion and my value to the program to take me out to dinner and show me that appreciation.”

For a player that effuses such praise for Pitt, it may pose as a mystery as to why a projected mid-round draft pick would declare for the NFL with a season of eligibility remaining. According to Hynoski, the decision to do so was beyond difficult, but proved to be the right decision by the end of his rookie season.

“One of the hardest decisions I had to make in my life was: Do I leave early for the NFL or do I stay another year? I think the fact of the matter was if Coach Wannstedt was still there, I probably wouldn’t have left. You know, my draft stock probably wouldn’t have increased that much. I filled out my paperwork and investigated my draft stock, and if I didn’t get injured at the combine or pro day, I probably would have went in the fourth or fifth round where fullbacks go. Leaving early, it was a tough decision, but the coach that came in, Todd Graham at the time, he didn’t use a fullback. I talked to him and he mentioned to me about playing tight end or linebacker, or something along those lines. It was just the right opportunity and right move to go pro. And it worked out.

“That was the year of the lockout, too. After I wasn’t drafted, I couldn’t sign with a team right away, so I trained three, four more months just waiting for my turn and waiting for my opportunity. It made me hungrier and hungrier, because I was mad that I wasn’t drafted. It was all festering up. Finally, that day came. I fielded calls from probably like eighteen different teams, and my final three teams came down to: the Giants, the Ravens, and Seattle. But I chose the Giants, and my first year we go and we won the Super Bowl. I was the starting fullback by the third preseason game, and made some plays to help the team get there, and made a couple plays in that game that helped the team win. It’s a memory I’ll never forget. One of the greatest moments in my life was standing on stage with my mom and dad after the game, and holding up the Lombardi trophy with them, and hugging them. I’ll never forget that feeling. Those are memories that will last a lifetime.”

Henry didn’t just make “a couple plays” in Super Bowl XLVI. In the third quarter, he recovered a fumble by teammate Hakeem Nicks, preventing a costly turnover that may have changed the course of the game. The Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots capped off a promising rookie season that was followed by three more rewarding years with the Giants. His NFL career may have begun in an unfavorable fashion thanks to a hamstring injury at the NFL combine, but it became an overall success by the time it was over.

“Those were some trying times before the draft, because I got hurt at the combine. I couldn’t participate in that. I couldn’t do a Pro Day. Those were some trying times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, because everything in my career led me to where I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. Did I have a Hall of Fame career? No, but it wasn’t in the cards. Was I a major contributor to a Super Bowl winning team? Was I a starter in the NFL for several years? Yes. Did I have success and was I recognized as one of the top fullbacks in the game when I was playing? Yes. The only negative is just how the fullback position is valued in the NFL. If I would have gotten in the NFL fifteen or twenty years ago, it was a different story. Fullback was a glorified position back then. Now, it’s not viewed in that capacity.”

With his NFL career behind him, Henry’s focus now returns to Elysburg. He and his wife Laura, a police officer in New Jersey, have discussed this move for some time, and will have the perfect home once they relocate.

“We’re building our dream home on a beautiful piece of property in the small town of Elysburg. My wife and I, we always talked about moving back to Pennsylvania. Right now, we split time between our place in Northern New Jersey and then Pennsylvania. It was just something we’ve always talked about. That’s my home town area; that’s where I love, and that’s the way I was raised, and that’s where I was raised. When I started dating my wife, I brought her back home. For being a city slicker from Northern New Jersey, she absolutely fell in love with the country. We just always had that in the back of our minds. So we’re in the process of building our home.”

The Hynoski’s dream home will sit at the other end of the very property where he was raised. Henry’s parents gifted their son with a “big chunk of property” on which to raise his own family—a family which he revealed will expand in the near future.

“Everything’s kind of working out together. By the time I start the job, my house will be built. So everything just kind of times up perfectly … We’re also expecting a baby, too. So we have a baby coming, due at the end of August. That’s the number one priority right now.”

Although the Hynoski’s know the gender of their first child, Henry was unwilling to divulge that bit of information. He and his wife have yet to deliver the big reveal to their family and close friends, and understandably so, will not disclose it until that is done.

Henry Hynoski has a bright future on the horizon. By mid-2018, he will be back in his hometown of Elysburg to begin a career that involves his two biggest passions: changing lives for the better, and football. He will have his wife by his side, and they will be learning the joys of parenthood for the first time. His parents, the two people whom he credits most for shaping him into the man he is today, will live close by to provide love and support when it is needed. But you don’t have to tell Henry of the good fortune that lies ahead; he already knows where he is heading.

“I see myself, first and foremost, being a family man,” he said. “A loving husband, a loving father. We’ll get through one kid at a time, but I envision having several children, and I want to raise them the same way that my parents raised me. And just having overall success in life. Money, all that stuff, it doesn’t matter. Family, to me, is everything. Material things don’t matter. As I get older, you realize what’s the most important thing in your life. And I know what’s most important. For me, family was always number one. I want to keep advancing as far as I can in my career to have a positive impact on kids. Of course, winning a few football games here and there won’t be too bad either.

“I think I’m exactly where I want to be, and everything’s coming through for my post-football dreams and my career.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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