Damien Mama is Mission-Bound

A five star recruit and the nation's top offensive guard, Damien Mama, has been through a whirlwind of a recruiting experience over the past year. The Latter-day Saint from Southern California has narrowed down a prestigious list of scholarship offers down to just four universities. Although he hasn't made a final decision, Mama feels that BYU would be a good fit for reasons beyond the gridiron.

He's one of the most sought-after offensive linemen in the nation in the 2014 recruiting class. At 6 foot-4 inches, 360-pounds, Damien Mama is a man among boys and he has the tape to prove it. Last week, Mama attended the U.S. Army All-American Bowl where he excelled among some of the nation's top athletes.

"I played in the U.S. Army game last week and it was good. It was good," Mama said. "It was a good experience playing against some good talent and just getting better."

The question was asked, ‘Did (Mama) the nation's number one offensive guard steamroll some defensive linemen across from you?' While that was more than likely the case, Damien took a more humble approach to answering the question.

"Yeah, I did alright," he said with a chuckle in this voice. "I had my moments but I think I did alright. I played quite a bit and it was good. I thought I did pretty good and executed well."

Mama's team won 21-6 and he mentioned a few times it was a good experience for him. Now the Samoan lineman is back home attending school and fielding calls as the race for his services heats up. He's in regular contact with the coaches at BYU and says they're treating him well and doing a great job of recruiting him.

"BYU is good, real good," said Mama. "They've been keeping up and talking with me every day. I talk to Coach Tujague a lot, mostly every day, so I'm keeping tabs with them and, yeah, everything is fine."

Mama placed BYU among his final four despite having offers from Wisconsin, Washington State, Washington, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, LSU, Nebraska, Florida State, Florida, Ohio State, Alabama, and Miami, among many others. Out of the 21-plus scholarship offers, Mama has narrowed down his top four to Alabama, BYU, UCLA, and USC.

"Yeah, they're (BYU) right there with them," said Mama with a chuckle. "They're doing alright."

BYU beat out many top colleges to make Mama's top four. The question is why?

"BYU is an up and coming program and it's a great school," said Mama. "I built that relationship with Coach Anae and most of the coaching staff. I just feel like BYU is a great fit for me. That's just how I feel about it. It's definitely a great fit for me."

Being LDS, and with BYU being the privately owned flagship university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mama feels the environment and standards promoted by the university fit well with his personal code of ethics. In fact, Mama is now planning on serving a two-year LDS mission a year after suiting up to play football for one year at the collegiate level.

"Yeah, I want to serve a mission now and I'm looking forward to that," said Mama. "I want to give back to my Heavenly Father because of everything he's given me. I have to pay him back with two years of my life. That's what I want to do."

It wasn't long ago that Mama simply had football on his mind, and his universe and future revolved mostly around the sport. Fast forward a year and the perspective of Mama has drastically changed. While football is still an important part of his life, it isn't the focal point of his life now.

"At first I was kind of hesitant about serving a mission," said Mama. "Then things changed for me."

That change came in the form of another LDS football player by the name of Xavier Su'a-Filo who was a standout LDS player on UCLA's offensive line. Su'a-Filo had a private heart-to-heart talk with Mama and resolved the conflicting concerns he had about setting aside playing football for two years to serve a mission.

"I spoke with Xavier Su'a-Filo who is an offensive lineman at UCLA," said Mama. "I sat down with him and talked to him about the mission experiences. I asked him, ‘what do you do out in the mission field?' and things like that."

Mama pressed Su'a-Filo further on the topic and Xavier was able to explain what blessings he had received as a result of his mission.

"I asked him what it did for him and we talked about it for awhile. He told me of all the blessings that he received and how it had helped him in his life. He talked about the blessing God had given him and how I can have those same blessings. It was really good and it helped me to understand."

Su'a-Filo helped to put life and football in perspective for Damien Mama. The two spoke about how football is just a sport with temporary gratification. "X" as Su'a-Filo is called explained to Mama that living your faith results in life-long blessings that open the road to further accomplishment and fulfillment that football can't provide.

"Yeah, he definitely helped me to see things differently," said Mama. "It was good. He talked about how it helped him and how he's grown and matured through the experiences of serving a mission. It just makes me want to share the gospel with others and put things in my life in order.

Recently, while visiting with BYU coaches, Mama was excited to tell BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae, and Offensive Line Coach Garret Tujague, who had visited him at various times throughout the recruiting process, about his plans to set aside football for two years to serve.

"At BYU they encourage players to go serve missions because BYU is a church school," said Mama. "BYU coaches encourage (their players) to serve a mission, so I was kind of happy that I told them that I wanted to serve a mission. It's something that I want to do, and that's what BYU is all about."

What did Coach Mendenhall, Coach Anae, and Coach Tujague think about Damien's announcement to them about his desire to serve a mission? Damien explained what happened.

"They actually came for an in-home visit recently," said Mama. "It was Coach Mendenhall, Coach Tujague, and Coach Anae (on the visit). My parents were there along with my little brother, so I was able to sit down with them and talk about serving my mission. They were really excited! They actually encourage players to serve missions and share the gospel. We talked about it and it was a really good experience for me and my family."

How does serving a mission, and the mission and influences of BYU, help Mama in regards to him possibly playing at BYU? Mama feels it helps a lot.

"I would say it helps quite a lot," he said. "Some of the other choices (schools) that I have, they're a little shaky about me serving a mission."

Based on Mama's comments, it appears that the coaches of USC, UCLA, and Alabama understand that taking two-years off from any profession doesn't necessarily help one to grow within it, especially when strength and conditioning are involved, as they are integral parts of a football players life. If those programs are shaky on Mama's desire to serve a mission, BYU could be well positioned to land a major talent.

The pursuit of faith and spiritual growth before football has been an eye-opening pursuit for Mama. At BYU, Mama knows this isn't just an idle concept or something simply spoken of, but it is often demonstrated by many members of the football team throughout the week and before every football game.

"Yeah, they go to a church before a game and do a fireside for the people in the area that they're playing in," said Mama. "One of the biggest things that I got from that is, you wouldn't think that the prophet Thomas S. Monson would think that (playing) football would be big in (helping) the church but it's actually one of the biggest things they use to help people see BYU on T.V. That way people can see BYU play and learn more about (the school and it's mission). They said it's kind of like a missionary tool in a way. It's pretty cool."

The five star recruit from St. John Bosco High School (CA) is looking forward to his official visit to BYU, which he'll take with other recruits on January 31st.

"Oh yeah, I can't wait man," Mama said. "I want to get out there and see what the campus life is like out there. Mostly see what it's like to be out there. I want to check out BYU's education from an academic standpoint. I want to see what kind of things they have to help with a (future) profession and things like that."

Mama's last official visit before National Letter of Intent Day will be to BYU where he's excited to ride the snowmobiles and enjoy what the campus and university provides. However, he doesn't plan on making his official commitment to a college of his choice know until signing day.

"Yeah, it's going to be a good trip for me to see what the campus is like," said Mama. "It's going to be an educational trip to see what it's like. BYU's my last trip but I'm going to definitely take it (his commitement) to signing day. That's when I'll make my decision."

Totalbluesports.com will catch up with Mama after his official BYU recruiting trip to see what his experience was like. Until then, stay tuned!

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