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Michael Hoomanawanui

Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui talks to to a reporter in the locker room earlier this season at the team's facility in Foxborough, Mass. Hoomanawanui will be on the field when the Patriots play the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX next week in Glendale, Ariz. 

Earn a trip to the Super Bowl, especially your first trip, and you become a ticket broker and travel agent. There are details to work out, arrangements to make. Your phone “blows up” with text messages and voice mails.

Man, sounds like a whirlwind.

“You said it. It’s a whirlwind,” confirmed Michael Hoomanawanui, tight end for the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots and, of course, a Central Catholic High School grad. “You want to make sure the family is there. Being married now, my family has grown. I have 15 tickets and I’m using them all.”

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he added.

That part is not lost on Hoomanawanui. He understands the improbability of a kid who grew up amid cornfields and truck stops and deer stands playing on the biggest stage in sports.

Losses in the AFC Championship Game the past two years denied Hoomanawanui his chance. Last Sunday’s 45-7 victory over Indianapolis made it a reality.

Consider it the intersection of “reality” and “dream.”

He does.

“I’ve been thinking about the days with the Twin City Tigers (youth football team) and being a ball boy at Central Catholic and then playing at Central Catholic, going to Illinois, going to the Senior Bowl and getting drafted,” Hoomanawanui said.

“It’s all come together and culminating in these two weeks … the best two weeks of our lives. It’s been a long journey. Hopefully we can cap it off with a win.”

New England meets the defending champion Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz. The team heads to Arizona on Monday, with the traditional zoo-like Media Day set for Tuesday.

There will be questions and answers and more questions. The Patriots’ No. 47 does not expect any of it to impact the team’s focus or preparation.

“We do know there are going to be distractions,” Hoomanawanui said. “You have to get those out of the way because at the end of the day, it’s just a football game.

“We've all worked all our lives to get this opportunity. We realize that and we’ll be ready next Sunday.”

Hoomanawanui has been ready every Sunday this year. That may be the best part ... well, other than the whole Super Bowl thing.

In his first four NFL seasons — two with St. Louis and two in New England — he missed 21 games because of various injuries. This year, he has been on the field for all 18.

Used primarily as a blocker, Hoomanawanui has caught eight passes for 93 yards, including five for 49 in the postseason.

“Knock on wood, you never want to miss time, so it’s been nice to be healthy,” he said. “In this offense we’re always evolving and putting in new things. You never want to miss a beat. It’s been nice to be in there every week and be a part of it.”

He could be part of a terrific Super Bowl. The Patriots have gone 12-2 since their 2-2 start. Seattle has gone 11-1 after starting 3-3.

Hoomanawanui, 26, was careful not to give the Seahawks any bulletin board material, saying, “They won it all last year and they have a great team again. We’re just excited to go against the best and match up with them.”

It is the kind of thing we’re used to from Hoomanawanui. He has a history of working hard, saying the right things, playing the right way.

He also is keenly aware of those who coached him, taught him, took history class with him, played alongside him, cooked him dinner at their houses.

“It’s been a while since I've been back in Bloomington,” Hoomanawanui said. “I just want to say thank you to all of my friends and coaches and teammates and their families in Bloomington-Normal.

“Even though I haven’t been back there lately, I haven’t forgotten about you.”

You have to love that, no matter how you feel about the Patriots. Of all the reasons to watch the Super Bowl, No. 47 is No. 1.

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Randy Kindred is at rkindred@pantagraph.com. The Kindred Blog: www.pantagraph.com/blogs

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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