His name is is enough to cause a traffic jam on a phonetic road map, so most people take a shortcut.
With silent consonants and double vowels to impede their progress, most of Michael Hoomanawanui’s Patriots’ teammates have a shortened nickname for the 6′ 4″, 275 pound Tight End.
“Hooman” seems to be the most common, while others call him “Uh, Oh!”, and his former coaches on the St. Louis Rams called him “Illinois Mike”, referring to the college program that he played for, which was only about an hour’s drive from his hometown of Bloomington.
Walking into the Patriots’ locker room after being signed just as the team was breaking camp this past summer, Hooman found himself an afterthought, the fourth tight end on a team that featured two young Pro Bowl talents taking up the starting positions, and backed up by a solid 6th year veteran in Daniel Fells.
So with a name that is translated to mean “To be patient”, it goes without saying that Hoomanawanui had the inherent determination to know that he would eventually get his chance to display his wares – and with the position having been decimated by injury, the versatility and speed of the third year player became evident on a team where versatility is key.
“He’s just a young tight end with a lot of flexibility,’’ said tight ends coach George Godsey, “He’s worked in the backfield, he’s worked as an in-motion tight end, he’s worked on the line at the point of attack, and he’s worked in the slot, so he’s just another flexible tight end, which we try to do as much as we can with them.’’
Like Hernandez, Illinois Mike is more of an H-back than a tight end. He may not have the straight line speed and separation ability of Hernandez, but is a better in-line blocker and lead blocker out of the backfield, and has been an absolute gem in the absence of All World tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Now I’ve added a kind of a new role, playing fullback, and it’s been fun.” said the 3rd year pro recently, “So anything they need me to do or want me to do, I’m up for it. Whatever helps us win.’’
The Fullback position, incidentally, was where “Uh Oh” made his first start with the Patriots, in the disputed loss at Baltimore in week 3. The following week, with Hernandez on the mend with an ankle injury, Hoomanawanui started at tight end opposite Gronkowski, leapfrogging Fells on the depth chart.
“Gronk and Aaron, being who they are and what they can do, you’ve got to find a way to help in this offense,’’ Hoomanawanui said. “So anything I can do, whether it be on special teams or playing fullback, I’m going to try and do.’’
Just like last year when injuries to the Patriots defense, particularly the secondary, caused player like Sterling Moore to come to the forefront and gain valuable experience, the increase in playing time has benefited the former fifth round draft pick, and the experience has added another legitimate weapon to the Patriots’ offense…
…and as early as this weekend’s season finale against the Dolphins, we could see how much having a healthy Gronkowski and Hernandez at the same time opens up the field not just for Hooman, but for All Pro Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd as well.
So, Patriots fans, you should really learn how to pronounce his name, because Michael Patrick Hoomanawanui of Bloomington, Illinois has carved out a niche for himself on this team for the immediate future and beyond…
…but he doesn’t mind if you call him “Hooman” or “Uh Oh” or even “Illinois Mike”, just as long as you remember that he is a tight end for the New England Patriots, and he plans on being here for a while.