Seahawks’ Obomanu: Hard to pronounce, but easy to play

Ben Obomanu has no problem with people mispronouncing his last name. It’s been going on since his days of Pee Wee football.

Besides, if the announcers are saying his name, it means he’s on the field, playing and doing something worthy of being mentioned – and that’s never a bad thing.

And just like last week against Arizona, Obomanu gets to have his name said before making a single play as one of the Seattle Seahawks’ starting wide receivers.

“I don’t get offended. I look forward to hearing the pronunciations,” Obomanu said. “It’s not as difficult as every one makes it

For the record it’s, oh-buh-MAHN-ew. But in last week’s 36-18 victory over the Cardinals, Fox’s Thom Brennaman consistently pronounced it as Obama-new, perhaps in homage to the president.

“My family told me about it,” Obomanu said. “We all just sit back and laugh at some of the ways being pronounced.”

And the worst butchering of his last name?

“They called me Ubumunu in a Pee Wee football game,” he said. “For some reason, they added a whole bunch of U’s.”

Mispronunciations aside, life and football are pretty good at the moment for Obomanu.

After being selected in the seventh round of the 2006 draft by the Seahawks out of Auburn, Obomanu served his time on the practice squad, toiled on special teams and savored what limited opportunities he was given at receiver.

He wasn’t flashy or explosive, but he gave consistent effort. And while it isn’t as noticeable to fans, consistency is what coaches crave. It’s why he’s still around. It’s why he got to start.

“Because he’s been working so hard, he’s been doing well, he’s been contributing in all ways. And kind of, ‘Why not?’ ” coach Pete Carroll said on his reasoning for starting Obomanu. “He deserves it. He just kind of earned his way.”

When Obomanu was told about it, he broke into a wide smile. The toiling hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“A lot of guys get their starts because of injuries, or things fall in place and a guy will wake up one day and be a starter,” Obomanu said. “To actually go out and earn it makes it special.”

Of course, when he arrived with the Seahawks, it didn’t seem as if he was destined to start at receiver. And there were times when a starting position couldn’t have seemed any further away.

“I think each year it felt that way,” he said. “A lot of people here in Seattle thought that every training camp, every preseason, for some reason I was always the guy on the bubble. Not matter how good I did, no matter how many plays I would make the day before, the year before or at practice, for some reason, it’s was always the same thing – he’s the guy that should get cut or the guy that’s on the bubble. It’s one of things where it makes it a little bit sweeter.”

And it made Obomanu work that much harder.

“This is the classic opportunity about guys continuing to compete and battle and work at your position and all,” Carroll said. “Everybody was really pumped up for him. He’s a great kid in this program. Everybody loves him.”

Obomanu didn’t disappoint in his first start, catching four passes for 60 yards, including a key 40-yard reception.

“To have him show up like that in his first opportunity,” Carroll said. “You know, it’s, ‘Here’s your chance. What are you going to do with it?’ And he did something with it.”

But Obomanu won’t let himself feel satisfied for a moment.

“For me being a seventh-round pick and having to scrap and fight for a long time in this league and actually get a chance to start, it’s a big milestone,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s only one milestone and I’ve got more I want to accomplish.

“It’s one of those things where you have to work even harder, you can’t sit back and relax, you actually have to stay on top of things even more,” he said. “There are higher expectations that come with being a starter.”