Oct. 17, 2012
By Morgan Bailey (photos courtesy of Nicole Haley, University of Michigan Health System)
As Patrick Omameh entered the Michigan Room at C.S. Mott Children's hospital on Thursday, Oct. 11, he was surprised by a sea of his teammates, media, community members and patients of the hospital. The crowd burst into applause as the fifth-year senior offensive lineman worked his way towards the front of the room. Taking in the scene, Omameh turned to his teammates for an explanation. He was answered by fellow offensive lineman and good friend Taylor Lewan, who took the podium to welcome Patrick and everyone in attendance.
"Tonight, Patrick Omameh is here on a Thursday night, as he is every Thursday night," Lewan began. "But it's a little different this time. Tonight, we're here for you, Pat."
This past September, Omameh was named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, which honors community service and charitable involvement of athletes off the field. Out of 117 nominees, Omameh was just one of 11 football players to receive the prestigious award.
"Patrick, first I would like to congratulate you," Lewan continued. "I think all of these people here show how much we support you, on and off the field. Every Thursday night, regardless of what Pat does, what he has going on with his busy schedule -- football, school, all of that -- he always makes time to come here on a Thursday.
"I believe, and I know that my teammates probably agree with me, that Patrick Omameh is truly a Michigan Man, and he is what the Leaders and Best actually is about."
Lewan faded off, saying he wasn't sure what else to add, when a patient from the crowd helped him out: "Live life to the fullest!" the patient announced, as she gripped tightly to an IV pole that followed her around.
The crowd broke into applause as the patient concluded Lewan's introduction in the most fitting way.
Next up to the podium was Mike Barrett, a local Allstate agent who presented Patrick with the award.
"Patrick Omameh exemplifies what it means to truly care about his community," Barret began. "Patrick has demonstrated selfless dedication and commitment to his community and bettering the lives of his neighbors. During his time at the University of Michigan, Patrick has spent countless hours in the Ann Arbor community, volunteering at the annual Hero for Kids golf outing and participating in the Women's Academy, which raises money for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Patrick embodies what it means to give back to others."
At this celebration, Patrick was being honored specifically for his work at Mott Children's Hospital. Every Thursday evening, student-athletes at Michigan are encouraged to travel to Mott and visit patients in their rooms. Whether it's watching TV, playing games, or making small talk about favorite movies and sports, student-athletes embrace the opportunity to spend time with the kids and bring smiles to their faces.
After a representative from Mott further congratulated Omameh on his award, Patrick took the podium to address the crowd.
"I don't know whose idea this was, but I appreciate everyone I know here and everyone I don't know for coming out. I come here every week because it is something that I enjoy doing, it's not something that I have ever wanted recognition for or anything. The fact that Allstate chose to recognize me, it's a huge honor and I am thankful to everybody for being here."
Since his freshman year, Omameh has been dedicated to attending the hospital every week, both throughout the school year and into the summer.
"Some of the upperclassmen got me started on it," he explained. "They would be like, 'Get into the car, we're going to the hospital.' As I kept coming, it was something that I became attached to and the people that were here."
Omameh was joined by his teammate Jordan Kovacs, who has also made an effort to visit Mott as often as possible.
"(Patrick is) an unbelievable kid," Kovacs remarked. "He's a great guy and I can't say enough about him. Not only what he does on the field, but what he does off the field. It doesn't matter how tough of a day he has, how hard practice was, he makes it here and he makes a difference in these kids' lives."
As much as the patients look forward to the visits from the student-athletes, the athletes benefit from it tremendously as well. Several of them remark how humbling of an experience the hospital visits are, and how it puts life into perspective.
"Adversity is what these kids see day in and day out," Omameh commented. "Some of the things that we feel are the worst things in our lives, we leave here saying we don't really have things so bad and we look at the bigger picture."
Kovacs also added how impactful the visits have been on him.
"It's pretty special the difference you can make in these kids' lives just by coming and visiting. It's not a burden on the players; it's something that we actually look forward to."
While some student-athletes comment that it can be uncomfortable at first to visit with the patients, Omameh had a knack for it from the very beginning. His teammates commented that the way Omameh connects with the kids is unlike anyone else.
"He's unreal with the kids," Kovacs said. "I try to go in rooms with him and take notes. The way he goes into these rooms and connects with the kids, he talks to them like they're his best friend. I think they feel the same way.
"He tells the kids he is a tennis player. They act like they believe it, but they really don't. He says that he has a mean forehand and an even better backhand. The kids love him; he's such a down to earth guy. He's a great kid."
Of all the times that Jordan has visited Mott, the most memorable was an experience he had with Patrick. Kovacs was visiting a cancer patient who was celebrating his 13th birthday. The instant Omameh walked into the room, Kovacs said a spark lit up in the patient's eye that he will never forget.
"As soon as Pat walked in, this kid's face just lit up," Kovacs recalled. "It was unreal the spark in the room, it was a special moment."
Omameh's impact at the children's hospital goes beyond the smiles he brings to the patients' faces -- he is also inspiring his teammates to get more involved as well.
"I just left here thinking if I could make a difference in a kid's life like Pat just did, that would be unbelievable," Kovacs remarked, and he continued to say that Pat is a big reason why he and his teammates visit the hospital every week.
In addition to being a three-time letterman and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten recipient, Omameh has now been honored for the commendable work in the community he does off the field. His dedication and commitment to visiting patients at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital is what makes Patrick Omameh truly a Michigan Man.