Great finish for Damien Mama

Not a lot of true freshmen, especially offensive linemen, are thrust into college action right away. But not a lot of true freshmen are Damien Mama.

True freshman offensive guard Damien Mama played in 11 games this season, starting three for the Trojans including the finale against Notre Dame.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride," Mama said. "I’m just trying to get better. I always have in the back of my mind to just play at the highest level and do the right thing. If you’re doing the right things on and off the field, you’re getting better.”

Sometimes knowing what you don't know is as important as knowledge itself. Mama knows that there isn't just one or two things he needs to work on to get better.

“Oh, I am working on everything," he said. "Physically coming in, I was talking with [strength] coach Ivan Lewis about that. About getting better, not just for this season, but the following season. I’m at 365 pounds now and my goal is 350. I’m seeing the difference and I’m feeling the difference. So yeah, it’s been good.”

Besides working on his body, Mama is also working on his technique with his position coach.

"Coach [Tim] Drevno teaches a little different kinds of technique so I had to adjust to that coming in," Mama said. "It was a lot of fun. It challenged me. Anything I do on the football field is to challenge me. You got to be willing to accept that. It’s fun.”

Mama and his teammates spent the weekend, sometimes in very rainy weather, competing and getting ready to face Nebraska. While San Diego isn't likely to be a wet destination, it is something Mama has some experience with.

“[I've played in the rain] a little bit. A little bit in high school," he said. "We had some practices, a little mud bowl, so it was fun. Being out here, we got to bring a little energy when it’s coming down like this. It’s a lot of fun.”

The ball can be a little hard to hold onto in the rain, and Mama was able to take advantage of that. While the second string offense was on the field, Mama was standing and watching behind the play. When the ball was fumbled and popped out, on what turned out to be the last play of the wet practice, Mama saw his chance to make a play. He stepped up, scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.

“I saw the fumble and the ball," he said. "Coach is always telling us be prepared if anything happens with the ball. I played rugby so it was a fun way to end practice.”

All fun aside, facing off against a traditional power like Nebraska is all Mama and the team want to focus on right now.

"It’s a challenge just like anything else. As far as we know, they’re a very physical defense so it’ll be fun. It’ll be a great challenge for our offense and we’ll come out to compete.”

Mama is familiar with the Cornhuskers tradition because he was recruited to Lincoln out of high school.

"They offered me a scholarship," he said. "There wasn’t a lot of interest there, but I knew the history behind the school with the offensive lineman and the great tradition they have there. So I had to say no to that.”

The Trojans can really focus on Nebraska now that classes and finals have ended.

"It’s been a blessing. I love all my classes. It’ been a lot of fun. It’s not too stressful so it’s been good on me.”

Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates on the Trojans and the Holiday Bowl.


Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at ryan@uscfootball.com .

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