Texans' DT Kurt Hinish: 'Attacking, disruptive'

Kurt Hinish busted through a block into the New England Patriots’ backfield to stuff a running back for a tackle for a loss. And the Texans’ gritty defensive tackle repeated that for a sack of quarterback Bailey Zappe on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Hinish delivered a strong performance as he battles for a roster spot for the second year in a row after making the 53-man squad last year after going undrafted out of Notre Dame.

How Hinish performed in 18 defensive snaps during a 20-9 victory over the Patriots after missing practice time with an ankle injury could increase his chances of sticking with the Texans again. Hinish had two tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses.

“I saw a guy attacking,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “What we want from up front, he attacked. He made plays, he was disruptive. He played on the other side of the line of scrimmage. It was really fun to see Kurt having fun playing football.

“He was fired up. He made some plays, and it was fun to see. He’s been battling through, and he’s been there, pushing through camp, and he’s battled through a lot, so it was great to see him out there having fun.”

Ryans also singled out former San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway as another standout. Ridgeway had two tackles and was relentless in redirecting his charge and giving chase.

“When it comes to the games and what we can say about guys who impressed me, but you talk about a guy like Hassan Ridgeway, a guy who’s been consistent all throughout camp, and to see him and the effort that he played with, the physicality that he played with up front, to see him running out of the stack, making tackles downfield, that’s impressive,” Ryans said. “When our big men are running and they’re showing up violently to the ball, that’s what impresses me the most. To see the way Kurt Hinish played, it’s impressive. To see our guys up front play the way they play, if they continue to progress, we’ll be a really good defensive football team.”

In 15 games and three starts last season, Hinish was an effective interior player. He had 23 tackles, six for losses and two quarterback hits with one sack. He played 435 defensive snaps, 42 percent of the overall defensive playing time last season.

Hinish embodies his gritty Pittsburgh roots.

Growing up in a hard-nosed town built through the steel industry, Hinish learned the importance of a blue-collar work ethic and toughness from his parents.

His father, Kurt, is a construction worker who’s a seven-time colon cancer survivor. His mother, Tawnie, is a career school teacher who specializes in computers.

The example his parents set, including the occasional salty words from his father, all stuck with Hinish.

From earning a scholarship to Notre Dame after convincing a Pittsburgh Central Catholic teammate to pass on his highlight tape to the Fighting Irish recruiting coordinator to making the Texans’ roster as an undrafted rookie free agent, Hinish keeps battled and winning.

“I come from a place where it’s all about hard work and toughness,” Hinish said last season. “That’s what I’m all about. That’s what my parents taught me. They taught me to fight for what you want in life. You never give up.”

The example of his father resonates strongly with Hinish. He watched his father never relent in his decade-long fight with cancer, and soaked up wisdom about life. Hinish’s father had him Kurt Hinish and his younger brother, Donovan Hinish, a Notre Dame freshman defensive tackle, doing lunges with 100-pound blocks. Hinish’s father would frequently lift weights after working a construction shift while undergoing cancer treatment.

“It’s incredible,” Hinish said. “The mental fortitude, I will never give up. That’s what he’s instilled in me from a young age.”

At Notre Dame, Hinish became known for his determination and resourceful nature in the trenches.

He smeared eye black on his face, creating a brand as an intimidating character on the field. It became his trademark.

All of that hard work paid dividends for Hinish. Hinish plays the game with relentless hustle.

“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 the way I am, that’s the way I’ve always been and how I’m going to be. Just manning the middle, we always joke around and call it the jungle. If you’re going to be in the jungle, you’ve got to be a bad dude. You’ve got to show up and bring it every single snap. Every snap could be your last and you’ve got to treat it as such.”

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. The avid hunter and fisherman had 10 tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses in a win over Navy last season.

“He was a pretty instinctive player,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. “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.

“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.”

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars

Photo: Courtney Culbreath / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Texans activate Teagan Quitoriano

Texans tight end Teagan Quitoriano began practicing Saturday as he was activated from the physically unable to perform list.

Quitoriano pulled his quadriceps while training over the summer, according to a league source. He moved well during the practice session Saturday inside the Texans’ indoor facility, taking some snaps with the first-team offense.

As a rookie, Quitoriano began the season on injured reserve with a knee injury. Activated for a Thursday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Quitoriano caught his first NFL touchdown on his first NFL reception.

He had three catches for 83 yards in a season-ending win over the Indianapolis Colts and finished the year with seven catches for 113 yards and two scores.

Quitoriano caught 40 passes for 512 yards and six touchdowns at Oregon State.

The Texans released rookie kicker Jake Bates, a Tomball graduate who was an All-Southeastern Conference kickoff specialist at Arkansas.

Bates went 2 for 3 on extra points against the New England Patriots and had two touchbacks.

Bates was signed to give regular kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn some rest during training camp.

The Texas State transfer earned an invitation from the Texans to their local prospect day after leading the SEC and ranking fourth nationally with a 64.47 yards per kickoff average and 64 touchbacks to rank fourth nationally.

After hitting a 67-yard field goal at the Arkansas Pro Day that would have easily been good from 70 yards and going 14 for 14 inside 55 yards, Bates worked out twice for the AFC South franchise.

Bates led all Football Championship schools with a 85.3 touchback percentage with 64 of his 75 kickoffs resulting in a touchback. He also had an onside kick against Alabama that was recovered by the Razorbacks.

Because both Arkansas and Texas State had strong kickers, Bates was a kickoff specialist at both schools.

NOTES: Texans rookie defensive end Dylan Horton returned to practice after missing several practices and the preseason win over the New England Patriots with a groin injury. ... Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey remains sidelined with a strained hamstring. Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said Friday he expects Kirksey to return in a few weeks. ... Not practicing: tight end Brevin Jordan (hamstring), wide receiver Jared Wayne (hamstring), offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (leg), defensive tackle Thomas Booker (wrist), offensive tackle Tytus Howard (hand surgery), tight end Dalton Keene and offensive tackle George Fant (rest day). .. Offensive tackle Charlie Heck (foot issue) remains on the physically unable to perform list.

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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