"It has always been one of my dream schools, but I never expected an offer," said Mafi, who earned his offer after Sunday's offensive line-defensive line camp at Memorial Stadium. "I wasn't even sure about attending the camp."
Mafi, who didn't play football his freshman year at Serra because of his size, always knew he wanted to be a football player, especially after watching the Bears when he was 10 and 11 -- his first exposure to college football.
Before the Cal coaching staff invited him to this weekend's lineman camp a month ago, though, Mafi never really thought that the Bears would be a realistic option. He had offers from Hawaii and San Jose State, but the Bears were a hope, a child's dream. Then he got the invite. A week ago, the two parties chatted again.
"I decided it was worth a shot," Mafi said. "I had talked to them a couple of times before, but honestly, I have talked to many coaches before, and, well, you know the rest. So my family and I gave it a shot."
At first, he was tentative in Sunday's offensive line-defensive line camp, but fellow WCAL defender, Nick Alftin, urged him to take more reps in one-on-ones.
"On the drive home, everything -- all the colors -- seemed brighter," Mafi said. "I knew right then that I wanted to commit."
It should be noted that all four defenders (Alftin and Tevis project as outside linebackers) are local products, with Tevis hailing from Atherton, Calif., Alftin from San Jose and Kakala from Manteca.
The Tongan defensive lineman has a 3.7 grade point average, and while he scored a 1230 on the SAT, he wants to take it again to give his score a boost. He's interested in majoring in engineering or business, and is set to take Honors Calculus next year.
Mafi is, simply, a bulldozer with the engine of a drag racer. He's big, he's quick (which he shows on several pull plays in the latter half of his highlight tape), and he's got a lot of torque.
His offensive line highlights take up the majority of his film, but the aggressiveness, the power, explosiveness, the physicality and the nasty element to his game are applicable to both sides of the ball, and are going to make him a terror when he's playing under Jerry Azzinaro. He's a prototypical 3-4 defensive tackle, and that's what he'll be playing for the Bears. Serra plays a 4-3 defense, so Mafi has played mostly offensive line, but now that he's committed as a defensive tackle, he's going to play more defense next season.
Mafi, who plays both ways for Serra, is an explosive interior offensive lineman who plays with great pad level and a mean streak. Watching his defensive highlights, Mafi shows that same explosion and nasty streak, and it's much easier to see his quickness, lateral movement and violent hands.
While his offensive highlights aren't the most pertinent, they do show a lot of his skills. He's is a true road grader with active hands who keeps his defenders engaged. He shows excellent lateral movement and keeps his defenders inside his shoulders, finishing blocks with physicality and authority. He can get down field with ease, and moves very well for a man his size. He shows very good knee bend, doesn't get out ahead of his feet, keeps good balance and shows a zest for contact. Yes, his film is highlight film, but it's still rare to see every block end with a defender's face planted in the turf, firmly and emphatically.
He keeps his feet churning, plays with great leverage and with great sink in his hips. He's well built, which is to say he's built like a refrigerator from the 1950s -- big and blocky -- but he's flexible and can move.