Albert Okwuegbunam’s rare combination of size (6’5”/258) and speed (his 4.49 40-yard dash at last year’s NFL Combine was the fastest by a tight end since Evan Engram clocked a 4.42 in 2017) makes the Broncos tight end a nightmare for opposing defenses. Turns out, he’s also a nightmare for announcers including NBC’s Al Michaels, who missed the mark trying to pronounce Okwuegbunam’s last name on Sunday Night Football.
Okwuegbunam, a fourth-round pick in 2020, finds himself in the pantheon of other difficult-to-pronounce sports names like Mike Krzyzewski and Giannis Antetokounmpo. According to his partner in the booth Cris Collinsworth, Michaels spent all week rehearsing Okwuegbunam, only to butcher it on national television when the 23-year-old’s name was finally called.
Whether Michaels was battling a rare case of stage fright or simply got tongue-tied, fans on social media weren’t impressed, finding the broadcast veteran’s on-air blunder both unprofessional and insensitive to Okwuegbunam (pronounced “Oak-way-boo-num” for those wondering), who is of Nigerian descent.
No play-by-play man or woman has ever batted 1,000 with mistakes all but inevitable over the course of a three-hour broadcast, especially given the chaotic nature of live television. But Michaels half-hearted pronunciation attempt and subsequent mockery of Okwuegbunam’s name obviously didn’t go over well with viewers. Albert O, as Michaels referred to him most of the night, finished with three catches for 21 yards in the loss to Kansas City, dropping Denver to 6-6 on the year.