czwartek, 26 stycznia 2012

Henry Hynoski: a "Polish Cinderella" story

We are only a couple of days away from the Super Bowl XLVI. This year's final game will be special for Polish-American football fans because of three players with Polish last names that will take on the field on February 5th. One of them is a 23-year old Henry Hynoski, who's not only a Giants' lead blocker, but also a free agent that will get to start in the NFL Championship game in his rookie season. To honor the occasion the Mayor of Indianapolis is planning to rename the city to "IndianaPolish" on the game day. That of course is a joke, but Henry the "Polish Hammer"  Hynoski is not kidding around. He plans on winning it all for real. 


Heniu Chojnowski, a.k.a. Henry Hynoski, a.k.a. #45
for the NY Giants will start in the 46th Super Bowl
foto: giants.com


They call you a “Polish Hammer”, “Hank the Tank” or “Hynoceros”, but they might as well call you “Cinderella”. Your story has got to be one of the most fascinating ones of this season. A free agent going to a Super Bowl in his rookie season, what are the odds for that?

H.H.:
Thank you, yes, it truly is an unbelievable experience. Even though I was not drafted soon I will be starting in my first ever Super Bowl! I feel blessed, but I know that I owe a lot to my hard work and perseverance.

Let’s go back in time. A little over a year ago you prematurely left your college team in Pittsburgh. Then in February you pulled your hamstring at the NFL Combine. Because of that in April your drafting dreams were shattered and you were forced to wait till the end of the lockout to see if someone might actually pick you up. How’s that for an emotional rollercoaster? 


"Double H" in action against
Dallas on Jan 1
credit: Associated Press
H.H.: Obviously I was very disappointed, because according to scouting reports I was one of the top fullback prospects and was to be selected somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft. But due to my hamstring issue it did not happened. I was upset for a few days, but finally decided to use that as my motivation to prove them wrong. I trained extremely hard and found the way to overcome all the obstacles and came out of it better than ever. Waiting out to the end of the lockout was also very hard, but I was offered a job at the New York Football Giants and thanks to my dedication and hard work I made the team, which is one game away from winning it all.

Giants were not the only team interested in your services. You also received a phone call from the Steelers. What made you pick New York over your college town?

H.H.:
To be completely honest I was pleased with the amount of interest in me. I had about 15 different calls, my phone was ringing off the hook. I was familiar with the city of Pittsburgh, because that's where I went to school for 4 years. But the Steelers’ style of offense does not call for the use of a fullback, so after hearing what coach Coughlin and Jerald Ingram (Running Backs Coach - T.M.) had to say about their system of play I felt more comfortable with being a Giant.

You are a true fullback - a position that some say is a dying breed in football. Would you agree?


H.H.: I do in a way, because currently a lot of teams are going with play sets that use wide receivers or tight ends over fullbacks. But I also believe that in the next couple of years my position will make a come back, because a team can always use physical effort of a lead blocker, who can pave the way for the running backs. So even though it might be sort of dying right now I have no doubts that it will be back in demand sooner or later.

What can you say about Tom Coughlin, who believed in you, made you a starter and helped you develop into a player that you are today?

H.H.:
Coach Coughlin is a man of character and a wonderful coach. His resume and accomplishments can tell you all about his personal experience. His biggest asset is that he is a great motivator and he always finds a way to get the best out of his players. He also is a good man, who simply cares about his team. For me it’s a great honor to be able to play for him.

And what about Eli Manning? He already lead your team to one Vince Lombardi trophy in 2007 (coincidentally, against the Pats). Do you think that if he wins again this year will he finally be able to quiet his critics, who don’t see him among the best QBs? Will that feat secure him a spot in a Hall-of-Fame?

H.H.:
In my opinion Eli is a tremendous player and there is no reason why he should not be considered one of the best – if not the best – quarterbacks in the game. This season’s story tells it all: first he lead us to a couple of thrilling, come-from-behind wins in the 4th quarter and in the playoffs he’s even better. I am not sure why Eli often gets overlooked, but no one works harder than him. In the huddle he gives us confidence and we feel that we can score every time he has the ball in his hands. He also is a great person off the field. 

Henry Jr. with dad Henry Sr. and mom Kathy.
Photo: Larry Deklinski (newsitem.com)
You yourself had a great rookie season – apart from going to the Super Bowl what were some of the highlights that you remember the most?

H.H.:
This whole season has been an unbelievable ride for me. I am glad that I was able to build such a good relationship with my teammates and that I am able to give a 100% effort and do everything in my power each Sunday to win a football game. I feel very fortunate, but at the same time I am having a really good time.

But not everything was peachy. You had to deal with a mid-season injury, but once you came back your blocking was even better than before. Was this the reason for the Giants’ running game to improve dramatically? You made Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw look really good at times.

H.H.:
Thanks! I also think that my play stepped up after my arm injury. Yet again I was able to overcome the adversity and use the injury as a motivational tool. I came out of it even stronger and as a team we started to get better results and I hope that my play had something to do with it.

Your primary role is to be a lead blocker, a “thumper”, but you also proved that you can catch (season 12 catches for 83 yards and 3 catches for 20 yards in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers - T.M.) and carry. Where do you feel most comfortable? Do you have any plans in the future to replace any of your running backs?

H.H.:
I don’t know if I will ever replace our running backs. I am a true fullback and that’s what I want to do. I am aware that I am a well-balanced football player that can run, block and catch, but on this team I realize that I need to be prepared for a lead blocker role, for this is what I have to do most of the time.

After a great first half of the season you barely made it to the playoffs, but in the postseason you are unstoppable so far. What is the reason for this magnificent turnaround?

H.H.:
We were back in the corner and against the wall. Our playoffs began with two games remaining in the regular season, because we had to win those games in order to see any postseason action. It was a “win or go home” situation and we happen to play better when there is so much at stake. We worked hard the whole season and now we continue to give that extra effort. We come to our practices early and stay late just so we know every play in and out. We watch hours of tapes, so we can prepare for what’s coming at us. We study each opponent with great detail and so far it paid off.

It did indeed to the point that you are one of the last two remaining teams. What does it mean to you to play in the most important game of the year?

H.H.:
It’s a true blessing, because as a young kid you dream about it and my dream is coming true. I will get to find out what it tastes like and I am very thankful for this opportunity. And to think that it comes to me at such an early stage of my career is just amazing.

Your dad Henry Sr. was also a fullback and played professionally for the Cleveland Browns back in the 70s. He was also a good player, but he never went as far as you. He must be extremely proud of you. Will he be at the game?

H.H.:
Oh, yeah my whole family will be there! They never missed any of my games, whether it was high school, college or pro. My father is very proud of me and he sort of relives his playing career through me right now. Recently he was at the Lambeau Field for the very first time to see us beat the Packers in the NFC Divisional game. He and I both enjoy it very much.

Your dad is not only a great former player, but also is Polish. What do you know about your roots?

H.H.:
I am 100% Polish! My maternal grandparents were from Gdańsk and Suwałki and my paternal grandfather was somewhere from the lake region of Mazury. Also my last name used to be “Chojnowski” before it got changed in America.

Henry can carry the football. Can he
carry his team to a Super Bowl victory?
credit: Associated Press
Do you have any Polish customs that you follow? Do you know any Polish words?
 

H.H.: Well, “Na Zdrowie” is definitely #1 (laughter). I use that phrase quite often (laughter). I also remember my mother Kathy talk to her mother in Polish. As far as a tradition goes I remember how my “Babcia” and her five sisters sometimes would come over and make pierogies and potato placuszki. I would literally eat hundreds of them – they were the best ever!

This year’s Super Bowl will be special for Polish football fans, because it will feature three players of Polish descent. The Giants have you and the Patriots have a kicker Stephen Gostkowski and another superb young player Rob Gronkowski. What can you say about this "IndianaPolish" matchup?

H.H.:
Pats have a very talented team and both Stephen and Rob are major parts of it. Rob had a great year, broke a lot of records and made it to the ProBowl, so that’s a nice tribute for him. It’s no coincidence that both of us are Polish, because our positions – tight end and fullback – are reserved for tough guys. And Polish guys have that reputation, we bring that blue collar, hard worker mentality to the field. We are very proud of our upbringing.

Rob, whom they call a “Polish Prince of New England” has quite a Polish fan base. What about “Polish Hammer”? Do you expect to see some white and red flags at the Giants Stadium next year?

H.H.:
I would think so. In Pitt I had a nice group of followers called “Hynoski’s Polish Army”. So it would be nice if something like that would start in New York. They call me here the “Polish Hammer” or the “Polish Plow” and – since I am very proud of my heritage – I hope that it sticks and catches on.

You come from Central Pennsylvania and are an avid fishing fan. Poland has many great lakes with plenty of fish and Polish women are beautiful – would you like to go and check either one on your own?

H.H.:
(laughter) I would love that! I always wanted to get over there to find out where we came from. My cousin is working on our family tree, so maybe next year I could make some plans about going to Poland.

So - to paraphrase the infamous joke - how many Polish people does it take to win a Super Bowl? Two, as in New England, or…?

H.H.:
...one on the Giants! I hope that on February 5th we will win for all of my Polish supporters, whom I hope to be with me personally or in spirit.

Text: Tomek Moczerniuk
Photos:  http://www.giants.com , Larry Deklinski (newsitem.com), Associated Press

4 komentarze:

kass pisze...

I hate to be a party pooper, but Henry is not 100% Polish. His mother's maiden name is Ferrari. His maternal grandfather was not from Poland but from Italy. He is my maternal grandmother's younger brother.

Kass McGann

Tomek Moczerniuk pisze...

Thank you Kass for that interesting piece of information. Henry did not mention that to me, when we conducted the interview last week. The fact of the matter is that at least 3 of his 4 grandparents came from Poland as it is clearly indicated in his account. Even if he is 25% off, who is really counting?

Cheers to all Ferrari family and go Giants!

Stefan Komar pisze...

How are you. My name is Ewa Komar and my husband is on the board of the NYPD Pulaski Association, a fraternity of NYPD Police Officers of Polish and Eastern European heritage. My husband was considering inviting Henry to an event the Association was having and I was wondering if there was some way of the Association being able to contact him.

Stefan Komar pisze...

How are you. My name is Ewa Komar and my husband is on the board of the NYPD Pulaski Association, a fraternity of NYPD Police Officers of Polish and Eastern European heritage. My husband was considering inviting Henry to an event the Association was having and I was wondering if there was some way of the Association being able to contact him.