Henry Hynoski arrived at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last February as one of the most highly touted fullbacks in the 2011 draft class. That was, until a hamstring injury courtesy of the Lucas Oil Stadium turf left the former Pittsburgh Panther sidelined for more than a month. Hynoski missed Pitt Pro Day in March and saw his NFL stock free fall in the spring.
Hynoski went undrafted, but signed with the Giants after the lockout. He did not rush once all season, but gained a hard-nosed reputation for his vicious blocking for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Hynoski also made 12 receptions for 83 yards, including four catches for 31 yards in the Giants' do-or-die regular-season finale against the Cowboys.
On Sunday night, Hynoski was back in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl. Playing on the same turf that almost ended his football career, Hynoski stepped up to make one of the most critical plays of the game.
With about five minutes left in the third quarter and the Giants trailing 17-12, Hakeem Nicks caught Eli Manning's pass down the middle of the field at the Patriots' 30-yard line. Hynoski trailed the play.
"I was just thinking go downfield and try and look for somebody to block," he said. "You have no time to think."
Hynoski let his instincts do the work. As Nicks fought for extra yardage, Jerod Mayo popped the ball out of the receiver's hands. Hynoski darted out from behind the play and propped himself on top of the football.
"Everything's just reaction," said Hynoski, who also had a 13-yard reception to start the Giants' touchdown drive in the first quarter. "You always got to stay on your toes and luckily I was in the right place at the right time, and it proved to be a big play in the game."
The drive resulted in a field goal, cutting the Patriots' lead to two points. This would prove to be important, as the close score forced the Patriots to let the Giants into the end zone in the final minute. It also kept the ball out of New England's hands for a few minutes.
And it all happened at the same venue that almost denied Hynoski a shot at the NFL. But this time Hynoski did not walk off with a limp. He walked off with a championship.
"It just goes to show you, if you work hard and persevere, everything comes full circle for you," Hynoski said.
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