The Tide Rolls in Family Connections

Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco five-star offensive lineman Damien Mama could never have anticipated the national attention he would receive from football, let alone the 30 scholarship offers, but the biggest surprise of them all was the family reunion that came from it.

Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco offensive lineman Damien Mama was convinced that he was the first in his family to experience the whole recruiting process, getting overwhelmed by 30 scholarship offers, receiving tons of calls from coaches and media and the pressures from those around him of where he should play college football.

"I didn't really have any family that played college football or who influenced me to play," Mama told Fox Sports Next. "It was pretty hard that I couldn't talk to anyone at first to ask what it feels like for them to go through this process."

But as the college recruiting letters rolled in and new schools popped on his radar, the 6-4, 370-pound Mama found out that he wasn't actually alone, as there was someone in his family who could answer those burning questions … and he played for the top college football program in the country.

"I found out I have a cousin who plays football at Alabama, and the two of us were just recently reconnected," said Mama. "Since then he's been helping me out a lot. I talked to him when he was out here in California to talk about Alabama. I've just been asking him questions like what's the program like, what's the (offensive line) coach Mario Cristobal like and what (head coach) Nick Saban's like. It was a pretty good talk."

Mama only found out about his cousin a couple of months ago, who is also an offensive lineman. The 6-2, 313 pounds Issac Luatua is only a sophomore for the Crimson Tide, but he is playing a big role in trying to help Alabama land the No.1 offensive guard and the No.21 overall player in the 2014 recruiting class by Fox Sports Next.

"The coaches told him to talk when he got out here to California and ever since then he's been trying to recruit me to play for Alabama," said Mama. "He said he wants to play next to me, so that would be pretty cool to get that chance."

Awarded a fifth star after his stellar performance at ‘The Opening' in Beaverton, OR, earlier this month, Mama says his family is pulling for Mama to stay close to home in California while his cousin is trying to get him to travel the 2,020 miles to Tuscaloosa.

"My family will always tell me to go to this schools and that school," said Mama. "Most of my family though really wants me to go to USC so I'm definitely considering that schools. It's been my favorite school since I was little, too.

"But my cousin keeps telling me about what Alabama has to offer so we've been sitting down and talking it over. He said it's going to be hard to get the family out there, but it's definitely worth it."

While the family debates over USC or Alabama, Mama still has 11 other schools he is considering, in no order: BYU, California, Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, Washington and Wisconsin.

But even before connecting with his cousin, Mama did admit the Alabama offer stood out among the other offers from the very beginning.

"Getting an offer from Alabama is definitely different than getting offers from other schools, especially with coming off a national championship," said Mama. "And it's always been that school for the last couple years. It's definitely a big deal to get that. I was probably the first kid from my schools to get an offer from Alabama."

Mama wants to take the recruiting process slow and plans on waiting to announce his final commitment until after his senior season.

"I have always played football for the love of the game, and not for the scholarships," said Mama, "but I'm blessed to have this."

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