The Minnesota Vikings are one of six teams that showed early interest the offensive line prospect, interviewing him earlier this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Vikings were among three teams that talked with him by Thursday afternoon, with three more scheduled for Thursday night as part of his predraft interest.
He has showed a willingness to play wherever a coach wants him to and had the benefit of learning from experienced NFL coach Hudson Houck as Mama tries to become more versatile in hopes of increasing his stock for NFL teams. Still, the struggles of his childhood were more challenging.
With a father that works construction, a mom that cares for his aunt and four siblings, getting food while it was available to him was part of his younger years.
He’s down to in the 330-pound range these days, but that’s a loss of more than 60 pounds from his biggest days.
“I came into SC weighing 397. A lot of discipline,” he said. “Maturing, something I picked up at SC, so I feel like weight shouldn’t be an issue in the future. Coaches shouldn’t worry about it now.”
He did it the logical way, by changing his eating habits – cutting out rice, not eating after 9 p.m. – and exercising more.
“I was one of five, so definitely you’d have to get your food on your plate before everybody else,” he said.
“My parents made a lot of sacrifices for me growing up. I kind of lost my childhood home just so I could go to school and get a better education.
It’s something I wanted to do for my parents and help give back to them.”
Mama went on to play at USC, but his sense of loyalty came on strong when he was considering going on a Mormom mission but saw a need for him to stay at USC and help his team.
“I wanted to get a year under my belt and kind of see what college life was like. College football and academics,” he said. “I was going to go [on the mission] after my first year. But I kind of sat back and realized there was a real need for offensive linemen on our team. We had a bunch of seniors that year. I kind of felt like I would leave my brothers kind of hanging if I went on my mission.”
It turned out to be a fortunate decision for the Trojans. They ended up winning the Rose Bowl in a high-scoring 52-49 win over Penn State, which produced “tears of joy” for Mama.
“It was a big game, it was really emotional, and it was kind of the reason I went to SC,” he said. “Team hasn’t been on top in the past probably decade as it should be. I felt like I was a little key piece of why we brought it back, a Rose Bowl championship.”
But, despite some pressure to return to college for another year, Mama made the decision to enter the NFL draft to return some support back to his family.
Now the NFL is calling and he is generating interest from NFL teams, with the Vikings one of them.