FOXBOROUGH — For Michael Hoomanawanui, the Patriots tight end who re-signed on a 2-year deal in mid-March, the goal is to improve upon last season. But the hope is to do much more.
Relegated to a blocking tight end and fullback role, Hoomanawanui has caught only 17 passes in two seasons for the Patriots. Last year, he caught 12 passes for 136 yards and a sole touchdown, a glowing grab against the Miami Dolphins.
He has, up until this point, been reserved about his desires to do more, toeing the company line in some respect. (The Patriots are known to say, “I’ll do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” regularly.) But now, he’s come right out and said it, that he would welcome an opportunity to contribute more in the passing game.
“Yeah, definitely. Who doesn’t want to be that guy,” Hoomanawanui said. “I spent a lot of time this offseason looking at the — quote, unquote — best tight ends in the league and hopefully we can learn from that, myself and all the other guys.
“Anything that you can put in that toolbox,” he said. “I realize my role in the passing game hasn’t been what Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have done, it’s definitely something I’m working on and hopefully can be a part of this season.”
That means he’ll have to work on his routes, reading defenses, and much more, according to the fifth-year veteran.
But what’s more, now that he’s going into his third season with the Patriots and his fourth in a Josh McDaniels offense (including a year with the St. Louis Rams), he’s embraced becoming a leader.
“It’s not necessarily something that they sit down and say ‘do this,’ or ‘do more of that.’ It’s something you just kind of grow into going into your fifth year or — quote, unquote — being a veteran guy around,” Hoomanwanui said.
That newfound leadership, as a 25-year-old elder in the locker room who will be getting married in July, comes with a bit of humor at the dumbfounded faces at Gillette Stadium this week for voluntary workouts.
“It’s kind of funny to look back and remember where you were when you were a rookie, the struggles that they go through, just the long days, the long meeting times,” he said. “People don’t realize that it’s a lot of meeting time. You’re only on the field for a couple of hours, per se, but the day is long. So you gotta do something with it.”
Of course, Hoomanawanui is the benefit of good veteran leadership in New England himself. And that helps define how he’ll lead the way for those now looking up to him.
“There’s so many veterans, guys that have played multiple, multiple years [here],” Hoomanawanui said. “Just learning from them each and every day. Seeing their work ethics, seeing the time they put in, definitely helped me to grow and like I said kind of take on that leadership role and show the other guys how it’s done. It’s not easy to play in this league, let alone here, especially in our offense. It’s not the easiest thing but once you get it, you can be very valuable to this team and this offense. So trying to get that to these new guys and show ‘em the way.”
Most importantly, Hoomanawanui said, “when you go home, it’s on you.”
Zuri Berry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.