Hoomanawanui looking to make a name for himself with Patriots

Hoomanawanui looking to make a name for himself with Patriots
September 6, 2012, 5:28 pm
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FOXBORO -- He was asked to say it twice, just so everyone heard it correctly.

"Oh-oh-mah-NAH-wah-NEW-ee," said the newest Patriots tight end, pronouncing his last name. "Did you get that?"

One day after being signed to New England's 53-man active roster, Michael Hoomanawanui was still making the rounds at Gillette Stadium. On Thursday he introduced himself to media and staff he hadn't yet met, sounding out his Polynesian surname as he went.

A newcomer to most, Hoomanawanui is a familiar face to some inside the Patriots locker room. On Sunday he was released by the St. Louis, where he played under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and alongside former Rams Greg Salas, Daniel Fells and Brandon Lloyd.

Though Hoomanawanui was a bit taken aback by the number of reporters crowding around his locker, joking it was "a little different" scene from what he was used to in St. Louis, on the field, the changes aren't quite as jarring. He says his familiarity with McDaniels' system has made his transition to New England a smooth one.

"It helps tremendously coming in here and being thrown in the fire right away," said Hoomanawanui, who said he's already seen "a lot" that's familiar between the two teams.

"It definitely helps knowing McDaniels, knowing the offense from last year. Different terminology, but in the end it's all pretty much the same."

Hoomanawanui said he was used in several different capacities while with the Rams, which should benefit him as he acclimates himself to an offense that emphasizes the versatility of its tight ends.

At 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, physically Hoomanawanui is somewhere between Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265) and Aaron Hernandez (6-1, 245). His skill set may allow him to be a suitable backup for both.

He's expecting to be a blocker and a receiver when called upon -- in his career he's made 20 catches for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. He said he's also comfortable coming out of the backfield if need be.

"Being able to get in the pass game, but at the same time, hold the point of the block," Hoomanawanui said. "At the same time, a lot of motioning, putting guys in a lot of different positions to make plays. There's a lot on our shoulders, but we have a good group of guys."

The Patriots got a look at Hoomanawanui as a fullback when they played the Rams during the 2010 preseason. It was something new for the fifth-round pick out of the University of Illinois, but he enjoyed it.

"I wouldn't necessarily call myself a fullback, but when I first got into the league, here against the Patriots in the preseason, we started doing a lot of motioning, putting us in the backfield so we can have a threat in the flat and running routes from the backfield so it's been a fun learning experience," he said.

"I kind of joke around, it's kind of fun being a fullback you get a running start to hit somebody . . . But I've embraced it, and like I said, anything I can do to help the team, that's what I'm about. If i gotta block 100 plays, if I gotta run routes 100 plays, I'm all for it."

After one day, Hoomanawanui already sounds like a Patriot. And after just one day, he said he already got a taste of what it's like to hang around with the characters in Patriots tight end meetings.

"I remember Rob and Aaron obviously from the 2010 combine," Hoomanawanui said. "It's a very . . . ah . . . I don't know what the word is, but it's an interesting room. In a good way. It's all business, but there's times to let loose. After that, get right back on page. Coach does a good job with everyone's personality and it's fun the day I've been here."

Part of the fun for Hoomanawanui will be getting his new teammates to pronounce his last name correctly. And for those who can't get it, he says he goes by the nicknames "Hoo-man" and "Uh-oh."

"I'm used to it," he said with a smile. "Just as long as you don't make the last name derogatory. It's a tough last name, it's not Smith or Johnson. I realize that and take it in stride. Try to have fun with guys . . . I'll work with guys and hopefully we'll be saying it enough that everyone will know."