By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
New Orleans tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s to-do list is about to be shortened by one. And it’s a big one.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the then-St. Louis Rams, Hoomanawanui left the University of Illinois one class and an internship shy of a degree in sports management.
“The (sports law) class I needed wasn’t offered the last half-semester I was there,” Hoomanawanui said. “I finished it my first year in the league, I did it online. So the class part was done and the only thing I had left was the internship.
“My first two years I was battling some injuries so the offseasons were kind of taken away with rehab and getting back on the field. After that I got married and wanted to spend some time to myself and enjoy that.
“So I kept putting it off, putting it off and then finally this was an offseason where I had some time and definitely wanted to get it done. So I took the initiative because I know that the NFL is not going to last forever. The internship was with B2 Enterprises, it’s a sports marketing agency out of Phoenix, Arizona. It was something that I needed and wanted to get done. It should have been done, but it wasn’t and that’s how I got to this point.”
In his six years in the NFL, Hoomanawanui also played for the New England Patriots, whom he helped win Super Bowl XLIX. Now he is at the point where will don a cap and gown and receive his diploma on May 14th at Illinois’ commencement.
“I know my wife and my mom will be very happy,” Hoomanawanui said. “I think it’s just human nature for a football player to always think football, but it’s my mother who said to think outside the box and outside of football. That it’s something that you need to get done. So being able to get that done for them and myself, that will just be a huge accomplishment. Getting that degree from them will hopefully springboard me into my next life.”
And in what field does he hope to land in following his playing days?
“I definitely want to stay in sports however that may be,” he said. “Not coaching, although I won’t turn it down. But it’s definitely not my first choice “This internship in marketing was very helpful and opened up my eyes to the business side of football. So I would like to do something in that, something in management.
“Along with sports, I’ve been a huge supporter of the Special Olympics my whole life and so if I could be in management and planning with them, that’d be ideal and I’d really enjoy that.
“But other than that, I’ve done some externships and some job shadows when I was with the Patriots. And this offseason, I did an NFLPA externship with the Arizona State University athletic department. Seeing the other side of college athletics, I saw everything from technology and helping student-athletes to sitting in on meetings for multi-million dollar renovations on the stadium.”
Does Hoomanawanui hope that some of his teammates and others around the league will take note of what he has accomplished and complete any work necessarily to earn their degrees as well?
“I would hope so. Like I said, football doesn’t last forever and so you’ve got to have a backup plan,” Hoomanawanui said. “I just saw on the news the other day, so many people have degrees now, what’s going to set you apart from those others?
“For me at this stage, being the oldest guy in the tight end room, if I can show these younger guys how I’ve stayed in the league will definitely help them out. Hopefully they’ll think of me down the road when they get to that point of what he did and why he was successful and why he stayed in the league. So it’s not only about being the biggest, fastest, strongest and smartest, but it’s doing things the right way.”