Tight end Hoomanawanui’s ‘warrior’ ritual

By Daniel Johnson

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s last name more or less gives away his Polynesian heritage. The junior from Bloomington, Ill., is a second-generation football player in the state of Illinois, after his father, Isy, who played for Illinois State. Hoomanawanui’s Polynesian decent is something that manifests itself in his facial painting before every game, something that he said he and his father started in high school.

“Me and my dad, we started it here, but people in Polynesian tribes have been doing it for years,” Hoomanawanui said. “For the warriors getting ready just to intimidate whoever they were going to go against.”

The facial paintings will always consist of a triangle on the left side of his face, and then differing options, depending on the day.

“Triangles represent shark’s teeth, they’re looked at as my family protector, Aumakua as they call them,” Hoomanawanui said. “It’s a sign a of strength. On my right side, I put the Maori, which are various symbols for energy.”

Hoomanawanui said that while he’s one of the few players in the Big Ten to apply the painting, it’s something that he will continue to do for as long as he plays because of the personal significance it holds.

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“I’ve had to develop my creativity some,” Hoomanawanui said. “I’m pretty artistic, so I just look in the mirror and put it on. I’ll change it. The team has embraced it, too, people will come up and chest bump me and high-five, I just hope that I can pass off some of the energy … I really don’t do it to be different, but I like that it’s something that is novel, that’s different. It’s great.”