BY KATHLEEN NELSON
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
It only sounds as if the Rams searched hither and yon to find one of their fifth-round picks, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. In reality, he was right in their own backyard.
That last name is pronounced ho-oh-muh-now-uh-NEW-ee, "Oh-oh" for short. Though his father, Isy, is of Hawaiian descent, the family of his mother, Anne, hails from Jerseyville, Ill. He grew up in Bloomington, Ill., 45 minutes from his alma mater, Illinois.
"Family and friends say they're Rams fans now,
no matter what they were before," Hoomanawanui said. "It will be great that my family can see me whenever they want to."
Hoomanawanui, 6-4 and 264 pounds, started his senior season on the watch list for the Mackey Award, given to the best tight end, but missed four games last year because of an ankle injury. He finished with just 10 receptions for 114 yards. http://us.bc.yahoo.com/b?P=2b0c1c10-...913210%2fV%3d2
"It was a bump in the road," he said "It pulled me down a lot, but I was glad I was able to come back and (play) the last two games, go to the Senior Bowl and show everyone that I'm healed from that and that I can keep moving on."
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said tight ends coach Frank Leonard called Hoomanawanui "well-rounded. It seems that tight ends get tagged nowadays as either pass receiving tight ends or the blocking tight end. ... We didn't tag him one way or the other, and he's got size."
The first area player taken Saturday was Clay Harbor of Missouri State, 125th overall, by Philadelphia late in the fourth round. How the Eagles will use him remains a mystery.
A tight end with the Bears, Harbor is Missouri State's career leader in pass receptions, with 150. He impressed scouts with three receptions for 22 yards as a last-minute replacement in the East-West Shrine Game and with his workouts before the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game. He appeared at the combine as a tight end, yet was listed as a fullback when the Eagles drafted him.
"I can play fullback, slot, halfback, and I plan on doing that. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do it," he told reporters in Philadelphia.
Eagles coach Andy Reid likewise praised Harbor's versatility.
"I'm not saying he's an offensive lineman, but he can control a defensive end or linebacker and is willing to stick his nose in there," Reid said in his post draft press conference. "When you see him run his routes, you see he's a skilled athlete."
Most draft experts expected Harbor to go off the board in the third or fourth round, which stretched his anxiety over two days.
"I was getting a little worried as they got deeper in the third and fourth round, but it was a great feeling when my phone rang," Harbor said.
The Jacksonville Jaguars took a chance on Harbor's Missouri Valley Football Conference rival, Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim, with the 11th pick of the sixth round. A finalist for the Walter Payton award, given to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision, Karim finished last season with 1,694 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Karim was not invited to the combine but outjumped every running back in Indianapolis by two inches with a vertical leap of 43 inches at his pro day. At 5-9 and 209 pounds, Karim bears an eerie resemblance in stature to the Jags' starting running back, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jaguars GM Gene Smith praised Karim's "explosive playmaking speed," and said he would use him as a specialty halfback and kick returner. A high school teammate of Rams QB Sam Bradford, Karim averaged 30.9 yards per return last year.
Reporters in Jacksonville noted that Karim was overcome with emotion on a conference call, saying, "It's been my dream since I was a little kid. This is a stepping stone to what I want to get accomplished."
Kyle Calloway, a 6-6, 323-pound offensive tackle from Belleville East and Iowa, went to the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round, 216th overall.