NORMAL — You can’t fit the signature on just anything. There has to be some open space for a Michael Hoomanawanui autograph.
He is getting asked to do it more often, especially this weekend. The former Central Catholic High School star is back in Bloomington-Normal to visit family, friends and make a variety of appearances.
He returns as a Super Bowl champion, a title to which the New England Patriots tight end is adjusting. It became more real Sunday night when the Patriots were presented their Super Bowl rings.
They managed to fit “Hoomanawanui” on the side of his, a landmark achievement for a ring designer somewhere.
“That kind of brought it all together,” Hoomanawanui said of the ring ceremony. “That was a great night for everyone. Then Monday, that’s it. Everything is behind us and it’s moving on to next season.”
There had been some of that already. Hoomanawanui plays for a coach, Bill Belichick, who he said “is always about moving on to the next phase, the next part of the offseason … OTAs, minicamps, etc.”
“You almost forget about it (the Super Bowl title) until we got the rings on Sunday,” he said. “You just keep working. There’s no secret to it or magic pill you can take. It’s hard work and dedication. That’s what got us to the Super Bowl last year and that’s what’s going to take us this year.”
Expect such words to be in the message Hoomanawanui delivers Sunday during the State Farm Student Athlete Recognition Banquet at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington. He is the keynote speaker for the Bloomington-Normal Sports Commission event.
The trip home is the first in a couple years for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hoomanawanui, who turns 27 on July 4. He and his wife, Cari, make their home in Arizona. Between that and playing in New England, it has become more challenging to get to Bloomington-Normal, where his mother, Anne, and father, Isy, still reside.
“It was a lot easier when I was playing in St. Louis,” he said. “It’s nice to be back this weekend to thank the people who got me to this point and thank the city as a whole.”
Bloomington-Normal is appreciative as well. Friday morning, Bloomington Alderman Jim Fruin and Normal Councilman Jeff Fritzen presented Hoomanawanui with a proclamation declaring Aug. 6, 2015, as Michael Hoomanawanui Day in Bloomington-Normal.
The date – 8-6 – was chosen because Hoomanawanui wore No. 86 at Central.
Now No. 47 with the Patriots, he was wearing a Super Bowl ring Friday largely because of teammate Malcolm Butler, whose goal-line interception in the final minute secured the Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl victory.
“First of all, I have to thank Malcolm Butler, and I have many times,” Hoomanawanui said. “I don’t even think I watched (the key play). I just turned around and everyone went crazy. I knew it had to be something good.”
Some would call it life changing, though Hoomanawanui says, “I’ve always gone about things the same way, at least I try to.”
Thus, the former University of Illinois tight end plans to use the same blue-collar approach that made him a fifth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2010 and, now, a Super Bowl champion entering his fourth year with the Patriots.
The next goal is to win it again.
“Playing for the Patriots, this is No. 4 since Bill (Belichick), Mr. Kraft (owner Robert Kraft) and Tom (quarterback Tom Brady) have been there,” Hoomanawanui said. “At the ring ceremony … a lot of them had all of their rings. You think one is cool, you should see four.
“Two or three would be nice, but I realize there are guys who don’t get the opportunity to earn one, let alone get one.”