By Brian Yauger
While no names were called from Youngstown State University during the 2019 NFL Draft, Penguins offensive lineman Vitas Hrynkiewicz got a phone call from the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams after the draft, signing him to an undrafted free agent deal.
“It was just a relief,” Hrynkiewicz said. “I talked with the Rams and some other teams pre-draft, so I knew there was some interest. My agent told me some teams were going to start having some opportunities, especially at center going into next year, so I knew they were interested. It was nice to have it happen.”
The Somerset, New Jersey, native joined the Penguins roster after transferring from Independence Community College in Kansas where he played for one season.
“I wouldn’t be here without YSU and the people here,” Hrynkiewicz said. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t have any Division I offers, so I went to junior college. YSU gave me that opportunity, and I’m proud to represent them.”
After joining the Penguins, Hrynkiewicz started in 38 games with YSU. In his first season with the team, he was an anchor on the national championship squad, starting in all 16 games, playing every snap in 14 of those games, blocking for two 1,000-yard rushers and being named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s All-Newcomer Team.
His second year with YSU, Hrynkiewicz was named to the All-MVFC second team and second team Academic All-MVFC. He started all 11 games at center and earned his second letter.
This past season he was an honorable mention for the All-MVFC Academic Team. Hrynkiewicz graduated from YSU in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree.
Despite the successes with the Penguins, Hrynkiewicz wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but attended a pro-day put on by the New York Giants back home in New Jersey.
In the pro day, Hrynkiewicz put up 25 reps on the bench press, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.38 seconds and posted a 32-inch vertical jump in front of NFL coaches and scouts from across the league.
Had he been invited to the NFL Combine, his 40-yard dash time would have been third among draft eligible centers.
Being snubbed from the combine and the draft doesn’t affect Hrynkiewicz. However, he would carry himself with the same energy regardless of where he was taken.
“I always have a chip on my shoulder,” Hrynkiewicz said. “I don’t expect anything to be given to me. Being drafted would have been nice, but I’m glad to have this opportunity. I’m going to go out, work as hard as I can and go from there.”
Gavin Wiggins, teammate, fellow offensive lineman for the Penguins and best friend of Hrynkiewicz, was given two rookie camp offers with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills.
Just like after the victory over the University of Northern Iowa, it’s expected that the two will grab a bite to eat and likely share some, as he eloquently put it, “fat guy hugs.”
“I’m starving, so if we can get a little food, a couple wings, I’m sure [the offensive line] are thinking the same thing.” Hrynkiewicz said after the senior day game. “We’ll probably have a huge dinner and give some nice fat guy hugs.”