Football: Hynoski reflects on NFL draft decision

By Alex Oltmanns

Former Pitt running back Dion Lewis set all kinds of rushing records in his two years as a… Former Pitt running back Dion Lewis set all kinds of rushing records in his two years as a Panther before declaring for the NFL draft Monday.

But it was a less-heralded player in Pitt’s backfield, fullback Henry Hynoski, whose crushing blocks paved the way for a lot of those runs.

That kind of play put Hynoski on the radar of NFL scouts and he too declared for the NFL draft Monday, along with Lewis and receiver Jon Baldwin, who will forego their remaining eligibility at Pitt.

“My decision’s made up,” 22-year-old Hynoski, said. “That’s definitely what I want to do and I think that was the best option for me.”

The departure of the three underclassmen is an oddity for the school’s football program, which is on its third head coach in a month. No Pitt underclassmen left early for the NFL draft last season. LeSean McCoy was the only underclassmen to declare for the 2009 draft.

After he filled out paperwork with the NFL to see where he might stand in the upcoming draft, Hynoski spoke with his coaches and family and decided it was time to announce his decision to go pro.

“I think this was the most opportune time and everybody I talked to all felt this was my best opportunity to go to the next level,” Hynoski said.

Rated by several NFL draft services as the No. 1 fullback among underclassmen, the redshirt junior has heard he could be selected in several different spots in the upcoming draft.

“The first fullbacks usually go in the fourth round. I’ve heard some reports, people saying I could go third with some people saying the four, five, six [round] range.”

Hynoski said he didn’t want to think about the decision to turn pro until after the season, but as the year wound down, he began to consider taking his career to the next level.

“I started thinking about it once the Cincinnati game was over, but I was certain over the [past] weekend,” he said.

Hynoski, who will graduate in the spring with a major in business marketing, was more involved in Pitt’s offense this past season with 12 carries for 33 yards to go along with 25 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown.

He said that if what he’s hearing is correct, his draft standing would likely remain the same whether he left this season or next season.

He also commented on the coaching changes. Hynoski said that the hiring and firing of Mike Haywood didn’t necessarily prompt his decision to declare for the draft. But he might have considered staying if former head coach Dave Wannstedt had remained at Pitt.

“I definitely would’ve considered coming back just for the loyalty and playing for him,” Hynoski said. “I still would’ve looked at my options, but I definitely would’ve given it much more consideration.”

Hynoski played in Wannstedt’s pro-style offense for four seasons, an offense that relies heavily on a fullback and is becoming more of a rare breed in college football these days. Spread offenses, which are often associated with new head coach Todd Graham, have less of a use for fullbacks.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound Hynoski believes that his experience working in a pro-style offense will give him an advantage over other fullbacks entering the draft.

“Fullbacks in the NFL are utilized in the pro-style offense. You don’t see fullbacks in the NFL utilized in the spread,” he said.

As for his time at Pitt, Hynoski looks back fondly on his career as a Panther and has nothing but praise for the people there who helped him get to where he is now.

“I can’t say enough about what Coach Wannstedt, Coach Cignetti and [running backs coach] Walker and all the other coaches have done for me, giving me a wonderful opportunity to excel at this University,” he said. “I was truly blessed to be a part of this wonderful University.”