Atonio Mafi NFL draft diary: ‘Our dreams are right here … let’s go get paid.’
As offensive lineman Atonio Mafi transitions from UCLA to the NFL, he is sharing his journey with Times staff writer Ben Bolch through a weekly diary leading up to the April 27 draft. This week, Mafi discusses his experience during the Bruins’ pro day.
Pro day was a blast, but there were definitely some nervous moments going into it.
Standing around before the weigh-ins at the Wasserman Center while waiting for the NFL scouts, we could all feel the tension. I looked at the teammates I had spent so much time with over the years. I felt a little pep talk might help.
“All right, boys,” I said, “our dreams are right here, it’s another stop in the road to the draft, so let’s go get paid.”
I think we all helped ourselves, even though it was really wet on the field. Some guys took off their shirts before running the 40-yard dash, making the most of the conditions. As we all expected, Kazmeir Allen ran the fastest time but said it would have been even faster if it wasn’t raining.
Atonio Mafi’s NFL draft diary
It was awesome to be reunited with so many teammates, especially everybody on the defensive side that I didn’t get to hang out with at the East-West Shrine Bowl. The whole coaching staff was there and all the boys still on the team at UCLA were cheering us on too, so it was a really fun environment, even in the rain.
I weighed in at 329 pounds, which felt incredible considering how far I’d come since I was 411 when I first got to UCLA in 2018. That’s a great weight for where I want to be with my first NFL team.
I was happy that I met my goal of benching 225 pounds 25 times. Defensive lineman Jacob Sykes did 27 reps, the most of anybody on the team. We were all cheering each other on, gathering around to yell, “Get one more!” It felt like we were back at winter workouts before the season.
One of my biggest goals was to show my quickness in the offensive lineman drills, and I think I did a good job. Jon Gaines II, Raiqwon O’Neal and I held bags for each other as we took turns blocking on them. I think I did a really good job of taking my steps and showing proper hand placement, even though it wasn’t against a live body.
We also did drills to assess footwork, acceleration and change of direction by stepping over bags. A few scouts came up to me afterward and told me I did really well. I got similar feedback from coach Chip Kelly and offensive line coach Tim Drevno. I was told I shocked some of the scouts who weren’t already high on me with my ability to move and change direction pretty quickly and violently.
Obviously, in practice and games you see my abilities, but just going out there and showing that I was able to move, being agile and stepping over the bags and changing direction was really good for me to prove to scouts that I can move really well, even at my size.
It’s getting down to crunch time, a little more than a month to go before the draft. I’m going to spend the next few weeks in Los Angeles continuing to train. Jon and I have a lot of private workouts with teams flying in to see if they might want to pick us.
Based on what we showed at pro day, I think there’s a lot to like.