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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
ESPN 150 OG Mama finds his calling

By Erik McKinney

Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) made himself invisible to college coaches for a short time this spring, which isn’t an easy thing for a 6-foot-4, 352-pound recruit -- as well as the No. 68 player overall and No. 3 offensive guard in the country -- to do.

“My phone was off at the beginning of the spring, so a lot of coaches have been getting sent straight to voicemail and they were kind of upset about that,” Mama said. “But my phone is back on now, so I’ve been calling a lot of coaches.”

Mama guessed that he had 20 or 30 messages when he turned his phone back on, and although he said the recruiting process has kept him “very busy” this spring, he is handling it well. The big lineman hopes to narrow his list of about two dozen offers down to a more manageable 10 or 15 in the near future, but that likely won’t alleviate much of the commitment he’s made to the recruiting process.

He is on the phone with coaches every day and said he tries to keep to a schedule. Arizona State, BYU, Mississippi and Washington are some of the schools Mama keeps in touch with on a weekly basis. The Rebels are an interesting option, as they -- along with Alabama -- have offered Mama and good friend Viane Talamaivao, and the linemen are hoping to take an unofficial visit this summer to both schools.

“Just hearing about the SEC schools and the great offensive linemen they produce, the great facilities they have and the great coaches there,” Mama said. “Being from California, I’ve never seen the South. The farthest I’ve ever been away from home is Utah.”

The Beehive State will get a return visit from Mama this summer as well, as he said he will take a trip to BYU and Utah during the first week of June. He will also take in Washington following his time in Oregon for The Opening in early July.

Mama is a top target for a number of programs, including local schools UCLA and USC. But his presence in this recruiting cycle looks as though it will only get bigger over the coming months as he works toward a decision. It’s a similar path as the one Mama plans to take on the field, as the Braves are calling on him to assume a leadership role as a senior.

“Coach wants me to take on that leadership role as a big-time Division I prospect,” Mama said. “He wants me to be a lot more vocal with the team and step up.”

There is no hesitation for Mama, who will take over as the leader of the offensive line for graduated senior and Class of 2013 USC signee Nico Falah. He sees it as only a slight step up from what he did last season.

“Every game last year, I gave a little pregame speech,” he said. “That’s a role I want to take on again. It was just off the top of my head, focusing on the game and letting it flow right before we went out.”

Though Mama said “improve pregame speech” is not on his offseason workout schedule, he stopped short of dismissing it completely.

“Maybe I’ll be thinking about it,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe it’s going to be something big.”