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As offensive lineman Attonio Mafi makes the transition from UCLA to the NFL, he shares his journey with Times staff writer Ben Borch via his weekly diary leading up to the April 27 draft. .

I thought a lot about that moment. It’s always the same spread.

I am sitting at home back in the Bay Area with my mom, dad and brother. Just the 4 of us her as usual. Everyone shares the excitement when the phone rings. Knowing what comes next, I will answer. I was drafted by an NFL team.

It’s no longer just a dream. I made it

I hug my whole family and hold them tight. They were with me every step of the way. This isn’t just about me, it’s about all of us.

It doesn’t matter which round you enter in the draft. Neither does the team. Of course, the sooner the better, and nothing makes me happier than being selected by the San Francisco 49ers in my hometown. But all I really need is a chance.

Playing in the NFL was a dream long before I played my first game for UCLA in 2018. Growing up in Shoreview, a short drive from old Candlestick Park, I was naturally drawn to the 49ers. Hearing stories about Joe Montana and watching linebacker Patrick Willis keep things down in the middle of the field made me an instant fan. and had a lot of his 49ers gear around the house.

I finally got to see them play in 2015. Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, who graduated from my high school in San Mateo, left me and my teammates a ticket to San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers lost, but had a great time.

I won a scholarship to UCLA, but I never really considered myself an NFL player until early last year when coach Chip Kelly gave me some words of encouragement. In 2021, he started three games after making the switch from the defensive line, even though he had been a guard for two years up until that point. my weight.

My coach said that if I lost weight, I would have a chance to play in the NFL. Then I went from 377 lbs to 340 lbs. So many people have helped, from his strength coach to team nutritionist Ross his Shumway. Even my teammates who joked that they missed the old Nioh kept me going.

My new body made such a difference. In fact, I didn’t drag anymore. In the match, I was able to make a downfield block for the first time. I started every game and was named his All-Pac-12 on his second team by the conference coach. I had my best season since my arrival, finishing 9-4 after a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl.

A few days later, I headed across the country to start training for the Draft. After having a great run last season and showing that he can be a blocker, I want to prove that I can pass blocks at the NFL level as well.

UCLA's Attonio Mafi during a game against USC in November 2018.

UCLA’s Attonio Mafi during a game against USC in November 2018.

(Jesus Ramirez / UCLA)

The next opportunity to impress NFL scouts is Thursday at the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas. It will be a mini UCLA reunion. You can play alongside quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, wide receivers Kazmir Allen and Jake Bobo. I can’t wait to see them again and share the field again.

It will also be an important reminder of what I always told myself, whether I was having a great day in college or struggling. It’s something I’ve been praying for all these years, and something I’ve been working towards.

Now I am in a position where I can really make it happen. So why not give it my all? That’s exactly what I’m going to do for the next three months before I get that call.

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