The NFL Scouting Combine was a learning experience for Henry Hynoski, as it is for the dozens of prospects that attend the invite-only combine each year.
With six Pitt players in attendance, based on numbers, there seemed like there would be a good chance he'd see a lot of his former teammates throughout the week. Hynoski said that not only did he not travel with his former Pitt teammates—he saw very little of them in Indianapolis, due to the tight schedule of the combine.
"I got to spend the most time with Dion (Lewis)," Hynoski said. "You're with your position group 90 percent of the time, so I spent the most time with him."
Fittingly, since they both started in the same backfield, Hynoski has earned a lot of his draft stock as a result of blocking for Lewis. It's only fitting after spending so much time together at Pitt, building a bond on and off the field, they would be in a lot of the same meetings in Indianapolis.
"You get the feeling we're going to end up on the same team," Hynoski joked. "I saw all the (Pitt) guys at some point, ‘Hey, how you doing,' as you're walking through the lobby, walking to interviews, before you go up to grab water. It was real brief, but I spent the most time with Dion."
The structure of the combine was also somewhat of a surprise. Hynoski has been in a daily routine preparing for last month's combine, and will continue that preparation leading up to the Draft. He has a Monday-through-Friday routine working out with trainer Steve Saunders. Some workouts are even held at a familiar place to him, the UPMC indoor practice facility. Workouts go from 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday, with the option of doing extra work on the side of which he regularly partakes. It's not unusual for Hynoski to be working out on Sundays, in addition to the regular schedule.
"It really is an all-in effort," Hynoski said. "You have to follow your meal plan, and you're put on special diets according to body compositions. Fortunately for me, my weight was good. I didn't have to lose weight like a lot of guys did.
"I can feel myself getting bigger, stronger, faster. The lifting is an all-day affair. There's technique work with shuttles and 40s, getting the right amount of steps down. It's very detailed from every aspect—the meal plan to training."
Then, when it came down to the Combine in Indianapolis, very little of it as he found was physical testing.
"I'd say 90 percent was the medical, psychological aspect," Hynoski said. "The physical aspect is a small factor of what really goes into combines."
The medical aspect includes a general physical to start the process, followed by the Wonderlic test—a psychological test given to all players, where they're asked to complete 50 questions in 12 minutes.
"It wasn't a bad test," Hynoski said of the Wonderlic. "You can't waste a certain amount of time on more than one question. Some (questions) were easy, really easy, then they got a little more challenging. When you start looking, you wonder if they're trying to trick you."
When it came time for the physical aspect of it, Hynoski came through with a vertical leap of 30.5 inches. Though it didn't deter from a positive experience, Hynoski pulled a hamstring in his first shot at the 40. In his preparations for the combine, Hynoski had been consistently running a 4.7.
"When I pulled my hamstring, I was just upset I couldn't finish the drills," Hynoski said. "I pulled my hamstring at the 28-yard line. After the 40-yard dash, I wasn't able to do the positional drills. I was highly disappointed; I don't have a 40-yard dash time, I don't have shuttle times and I didn't get to show off my skills as a fullback."
What he quickly found out, was that it wouldn't matter to the scouts and groups of NFL executives in attendance. Just as he had learned in his early impressions of the combine, this whole thing is all more mental than it is physical—everything from how the daily schedules are set up, the mental maturity to takes to go through the NFL Combine, and especially meeting with a handful of coaches, general managers and player personnel directors.
Hynoski met with nearly NFL team during that respective session of the Combine. Only one team asked about his 40 time. Even in that instance it was simply a formality.
"It didn't seem like a major concern," Hynoski said. "The scouts talked to me about being the top fullback on their board. They said I do a lot of things, I'm very versatile and I'm a tough guy. They said I do all things they're looking for; running, blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield.
"I think another thing that helped was that I love special teams. I can be four-dimensional. Basically, they said, ‘You can play football, that's the bottom line.'"
Even though the scouts, and the rest of the NFL personnel he came in contact with had a positive vibe, that doesn't mean Hynoski will take it easy over the next seven weeks. Pitt's pro day will be March 15, and Hynoski looks forward to getting a second chance at running the 40. It's not so much that he's looking for a certain time he has to run it in—he just wants all his bases covered. In other words, there's just a sense of accomplishment of saying he completed every drill, every medical test, every psychological test, leaving no open doors or any other questions.
It's part of his mentality going back to his days in high school, and a mentality that made him a popular player—one that Pitt fans could relate well to—in his days at Pitt.
"I don't think the fact that I couldn't do the drills changes my opinion of me, especially when you think of how important a shuttle drill is for a fullback," Hynoski said. "It's just me being a competitor. I want to be the best that I do, the best at everything and show my skills and abilities the best I can."