The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2020 season.
#41 Kurt Hinish, DT
Kurt Hinish is a rising senior from Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School. Hinish was the #519 overall player, #42 defensive tackle and #10 player from Pennsylvania in the class of 2017. He chose the Irish over offers from 19 other programs, including the Penn State Nittany Lions, Virginia Tech Hokies and Nebraska Cornhuskers. Hinish was a high-school teammate of fellow Notre Dame commit David Adams, and a rival of former backup QB Phil Jurkovec.
Hinish saw playing time early and often. He and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa backed up the veteran duo of Jerry Tillery and Johnathan Bonner on the inside in 2017 and 2018 before taking on starting roles in 2019. He has 36 tackles and 3.5 sacks in three years at Notre Dame, with two of those sacks and 2.5 other tackles for loss coming in 2019.
Despite a relative lack of size at 6’2”, 295 pounds, Hinish has, through sheer strength and will, been able to hold the point of attack and even command double teams against some truly terrifying offensive lines in his career. He was a huge part of why the Irish were able to mostly contain the juggernaut rushing attack of the Georgia Bulldogs in last year’s near-upset in Athens. He has played in 38 games through three years, an incredible data point when one considers that he came in as a three-star recruit lacking elite physical traits, almost certainly expected to take a redshirt year with a long road to playing time. Notre Dame certainly had some personnel issues that contributed to his early playing time, but more than anything else it’s a testament to Hinish’s tenacity and will that he was ready to compete so soon.
Pat Kuntz was beloved by Notre Dame fans during the Weis era for being a highly effective and ferocious competitor on the interior - one of the few bright spots on some miserable Irish defenses - but my favorite Kuntz story actually comes from a play in which he wasn’t even involved.
In the 2006 game against the UCLA Bruins, Jeff Samardzija caught a pass from a scrambling Brady Quinn, evaded several Bruin defenders and leaped triumphantly into the end zone. You know that story. Here’s something you might not know: after Samardzija crossed the goal line, the first person to celebrate with him was fellow receiver Rhema McKnight. The second? Pat Kuntz, who was so hyped to congratulate his teammate that he raced down the sideline and made it ahead of the nine other players who were actually part of the play. That’s who Pat Kuntz was. He was a guy who fought hard and hustled every play for his team - even when he wasn’t on the field.
A slightly undersized interior lineman who nonetheless competes at a high level, combining a nasty on-field demeanor with a jolly sideline/off-field persona? That’s Pat Kuntz; and it’s Kurt Hinish, who is not only a fierce competitor but a genuine quality dude and a great teammate. Both of these guys epitomize the happy warrior, giving everything they have and having a major impact on the field - even if it doesn’t always light up the stat sheet - and off it as well.
One piece of good news for Hinish is that he may not need to be as constant a presence on the field this year, as the Irish have spent the last few seasons building up more depth on the interior line. With Ja’Mion Franklin likely to be healthy and Jacob Lacey also showing progress, Notre Dame finally appears to have a seasoned, talented three-deep at the nose. That said, Hinish is still your unquestioned starter and absolutely deserves to be after what he has already shown. Enjoy one more year of seeing this guy’s mean streak, lion’s heart and glorious eyeblack on the field.