Kurt Hinish kept pushing and shoving, driving his legs until he got free from a block and chased down his former college teammate for a sack.
The Texans’ gritty undrafted rookie defensive tackle from Notre Dame tackled former Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book for an 11-yard loss during a 17-13 victory Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
The push from Hinish was emblematic of how the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Pittsburgh native has performed throughout training camp. He’s making his presence felt at the line of scrimmage and with his work ethic and study habits.
Hinish is making his bid for a roster spot, and he’s created a strong impression on the coaching staff.
“It felt great, it was even better than I thought it would, it feels like a million bucks,” said Hinish, who received $85,000 guaranteed from the Texans on his rookie deal after being overlooked by all 32 NFL teams during the draft. “It was a lot of preparation that went into that.”
No one played in more career games in Notre Dame history than Hinish, appearing in 61 games with 35 starts and recording 81 tackles, 20 for losses, 7 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble. A former All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable-mention selection, Hinish ran the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 31 times at the NFL scouting combine.
At Notre Dame, Hinish became known for his high-octane style and for painting his face for games. He had 10 tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses in a win over Navy last season.
And Texans coach Lovie Smith emphasized that Hinish is off to a fast start in the NFL.
“Whenever you have a nose guard that gets a sack, that’s really big,” Smith said. “But he’s been a steady performer throughout camp also.”
Hinish, an avid hunter and fisherman who caught Notre Dame’s attention in recruiting when he convinced Central Catholic High School teammate David Adams to submit his highlight tape to the school’s recruiting coordinator, embraces a “lunch-pail,” blue-collar mentality.
“That’s the way I am,” Hinish said. “I take it one day at a time. I do my best every day I show up at the building. I feel excited. I’m making the most out of my opportunity, for sure.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com