UCLA OL Atonio Mafi Accepts Invitation to East-West Shrine Bowl

The Bruins’ iron man defensive tackle turned offensive guard has officially started his journey to the NFL.

As his college journey winds down, one Bruin has officially opened a door to the pros.

UCLA football left guard Atonio Mafi has accepted an invitation to the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl, an annual showcase for graduating players with an interest in playing professionally. The event, which takes place over the course of one week in Las Vegas, culminates in an all-star game at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 2.

Mafi has appeared in all 55 of the Bruins’ games since the start of the 2018 season, which was his true freshman year.

The 6-foot-4, 339-pound lineman first came to Westwood on the other side of the ball, and he was a defensive lineman for two seasons before making the move to offense.

Mafi played 24 games as a defensive lineman, starting 14, and he racked up 45 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and a forced fumble in his career.

Making the switch to offensive guard ahead of the 2020 season, Mafi appeared as a reserve in all seven of UCLA’s games in their COVID-shortened campaign. Mafi started three games in 2021, playing in all 12, before he started all 12 in 2022. In between those two seasons, Mafi reshaped his body by losing nearly 70 pounds to boost his chances at making it to the NFL.

Mafi and safety Stephan Blaylock are the only two players who have appeared in all 55 games of the Chip Kelly era in Westwood.

With Mafi paving the way on the interior line, running back Zach Charbonnet put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022. UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game in both seasons, and they led the conference in yards per carry in 2022.

In July, the Shrine Bowl released the East-West Shrine Bowl 1000, a list of draft-eligible players most likely to be selected for collegiate all-star games in the winter. The list featured Charbonnet, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, wide receiver Kazmeir Allen, tight end Mike Martinez, center Duke Clemens, guard Jon Gaines II, offensive tackle Raiqwon O’Neal, linebacker Bo Calvert, linebacker Carl Jones, linebacker Darius Muasau and cornerback Azizi Hearn.

Thompson-Robinson received and accepted his invitation to the Shrine Bowl on Dec. 2. Mafi, meanwhile, was not a part of that preseason list, but he appears to have done enough in 2022 to change scouts’ minds. 

UCLA sent wide receiver Kyle Philips and safety Quentin Lake to the Shrine Bowl in 2022, and both were mid-round selections in the NFL Draft a few months later.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and Reese’s Senior Bowl are the other most prominent showcases for draft-eligible players, and invites to those will be sent out and accepted in the coming weeks.

The Bruins typically host a pro day in March, and the 2023 NFL Draft is set to take place from April 27 to April 29 in Kansas City.

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