Atonio Mafi NFL draft diary: You’ve got to enjoy the process

As an offensive lineman Atonio Mafi transitions from UCLA to the NFL, he shares his trip with the Times editor Ben Bolch through a weekly diary in advance the draft from April 27th to 29th. This week, Mafi discusses the key lessons he learned and the advice he would give to anyone going through the same process.

You’re out of college. It’s time to act like a pro.

That was one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past few months as I prepare for the NFL draft. Unlike when I was at UCLA, when my scholarship was basically guaranteed, in pro football nothing is certain. You’re trying to take another grown man’s job and livelihood so you can’t go into this shy or shy, you have to give it your all and give it your all.

There are only 53 players on an active NFL roster. Even if you get drafted and make the team, you can always be replaced. You have to be able to glue. So that was my mission, to build and maintain the habits that give me the best chance of a long career. Your job is never secure, so you just have to keep working.

I keep reminding myself that this is the game I love to play, this is the dream and what I’ve been working toward for so long. So you must take the time to look around and enjoy the process.

— Atonio Mafi

The NFL guys I’ve spoken to over the past few months have told me that attitude is the most important thing. What worked for you in college may not work now, so you need to find what helps you get into the right mental space and make sure you address that first before you can work effectively.

Everyone in the league is just as fast as you, everyone is just as strong. What matters is whether you’re willing to improve as the season progresses. Staying hungry is what can keep you close.

Someone is paying you millions of dollars to do a job, and at a high level, so you just have to try to find that balance. You have to remember that at the end of the day it is still a game but understand why there is so much pressure because there is a lot of money at stake.

Atonio Mafi NFL Draft Diary

It sounds like a heavy burden, and somehow it is. I keep reminding myself that this is the game I love to play, this is the dream and what I’ve been working toward for so long. So you must take the time to look around and enjoy the process.

If I could go back and give myself some advice four months ago, when I was driving the team bus to the airport after the Sun Bowl when I was signing with my agent, it would focus on being a lot more open-minded and relaxed. I would say I was a little nervous and shy at first because I was wary when I first started training in Florida. Sometimes I just think too much about everything.

These last few months have gone by a lot quicker than I expected, from practice to the East-West Shrine Bowl to pro day and now we’re gearing up for draft day. I would advise anyone going through this process to just accept everything as it comes and whatever happens will happen.

Meeting teams was daunting at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Don’t be afraid to be yourself because at the end of the day this is a job interview and they want to know who you are. Putting up a facade that you have to keep up if they pick you would hurt everyone involved. Let the team that wants you the most accept you for who you are.

So make yourself comfortable and do it as fast as you can. Don’t try to take it slow and figure it out later. Just be open to everything from the start and things will tend to work out.

You’re out of college. It’s time to act like a pro.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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