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UCLA’s Sam Marrazzo provides leadership and newfound versatility

While many of UCLA’s offensive linemen congregated in a dorm room playing video games, Sam Marrazzo was alone in his room, practicing guitar. That’s one of the earliest memories Jon Gaines II has of fellow offensive lineman Sam Marrazzo.

“Just sitting by himself playing guitar and I’m like, ‘Man, he’s weird,’” Gaines said. “But he’s talented though.”

Years later, with Gaines a senior and Marrazzo a redshirt senior, the two are best friends. And when Marrazzo isn’t strumming six strings, he’s part of UCLA’s five-man unit in the trenches – an offensive line that has allowed the Bruins to average 504.1 yards of offense per game.

Marrazzo’s team contributions don’t stop there. Just as he’s learned tuba and trombone as part of the concert band at Aliso Niguel High in Aliso Viejo, or whatever other instrument catches his attention, he’s learned different positions on the field.

The Bruins’ coaching staff has been experimenting with Marrazzo playing tight end since the bye week in mid-October. He’s played the position in a few recent games as well as on the field goal/extra point units, wearing jersey No. 88.

Although he’s mostly there for blocking, the 6-foot-3, 301-pound Marrazzo, who usually wears No. 64, is hopeful he’ll get a pass thrown his way before the season is over.

“I’m 88, right? I’ve been pestering every coach that will listen to me,” Marrazzo said, alluding to his work with a football passing machine. “I’ll get on the JUGS, I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll run a fade. Whatever it takes to hopefully not drop it, because that would be awful.”

Marrazzo still practices with the offensive line on a regular basis, which he prefers because the tight ends’ individual drills “look like a lot of running.”

The center/tight end is one of multiple Bruins to play multiple positions this season. Kazmeir Allen has moved from receiver to help shoulder the load at running back. Colson Yankoff came into the program as a quarterback but has switched to receiver and more recently to tight end.

College football players are no longer one-trick ponies. And with Marrazzo as proof, that sentiment now applies to linemen, too.

“The game is moving towards more position-less things,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “Versatility is a positive in terms of what you can do because I think it allows coaches to mix and match.”

Marrazzo, who arrived at UCLA in 2017, is one of the longest-tenured Bruins and has overcome two injuries, giving him the ability to lead and sympathize with teammates. He demonstrated loyalty and compassion in 2021 when, on behalf of his friend, he disclosed to the media that Gaines’ father was in the process of seeking a kidney donor.

“Sam’s the leader of our unit. Sam was the guy that taught me everything I know since I got here,” Gaines said. “He’ll do anything you could ever ask him and he can answer any question you have.”

The offensive line is one of the highest-educated positions on the team, with three out of five starting linemen having an undergraduate degree. Marrazzo has one in political science, creating a trifecta of athletic, academic and musical experience at UCLA.

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