The film on Kurt Hinish impressed Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio, who signed the college free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft. Hinish didn't seem to have the typical attributes and measurables of a player at his position, but his production proved otherwise.
"I think everybody would agree Notre Dame has got a pretty good program," Caserio said. "Played pretty good defense. He was a pretty instinctive player. I'd say he's not the tallest, he's not the strongest, but he knows how to play football. We're in the business of acquiring good football players, regardless of what they look like or how big or small they might be. But he does a good job using his hands, playing with leverage, and he was on the field. So those are some of the qualities that we liked, and again, he was undrafted, so it was about giving him an opportunity, but he had done enough."
What Hinish lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in toughness and grit.
"I know I'm undersized for my position but I'm going to show up and punch you in the face every single snap from start to finish," Hinish said. "That's just who I am."
Last November, Kurt Hinish racked up 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in a single game against Navy as the starting nose guard for Notre Dame. A three-year starter for the Irish, Hinish appeared in 61 games (35 starts) in his five seasons (2017-21) in college, finishing with 81 tackles (42 solo), 20 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Throughout training camp and preseason, the Hinish competed in a deep Texans defensive line group of over a dozen players. His consistency backed by three years of starting experience made him hard not to notice. Hinish logged a sack in two of his three preseason performances. The rookie DL capped off his preseason by sacking 49ers QB Trey Lance and adding a quarterback hit plus three tackles for loss against San Francisco.
"It's about making plays when you get an opportunity," Head Coach Lovie Smith said after the game. "When you say 53, I say 70. We're going to have 16 practice squad players, one international player, so we're going to have a 70-man roster. We're going to try to do whatever we can to keep as many of the players that we like as possible. Kurt (Hinish) has taken advantage of his opportunities, too. But he's been like that just about every day of training camp."
Hinish not only made the team, the Texans brought him back on the 53-man roster this week during final roster cuts. Caserio admits that Hinish (6-2, 300) reminds him a bit of Roy Lopez (6-2, 318), a sixth-round draft pick in 2021, and conversations surrounding him. While his raw talent and wrestling background made Lopez an interesting prospect, his ceiling was relatively unknown.However, Lopez excelled, stepping in to start 15 games for Houston after veteran DL Vincent Taylor suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last year. While Hinish adds depth to the d-line, his potential might also be relatively untapped.
"Roy got here, he was whatever he was, a sixth-round pick, and I'm not sure anybody was sure what we really had," Caserio said. "I think Roy has probably exceeded that. We'll see how it goes with Kurt. He's really played in the preseason. Now obviously going to be in a different situation. Nothing is guaranteed, but he's got a good attitude. He works hard. We've got a lot of respect for Coach (Brian) Kelly and the program that he ran at Notre Dame. Kurt has done a nice job, and we'll see what happens here as we move forward."
The Texans will open their 2022 regular season against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 11. Kickoff from NRG Stadium is set for noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.