The Sports Report: UCLA offensive lineman Atonio Mafi shares his NFL draft journey

UCLA offensive lineman Atonio Mafi sprays water on his head during a game against Bowling Green
UCLA offensive lineman Atonio Mafi
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

As offensive lineman Atonio Mafi transitions from UCLA to the NFL, he is sharing his journey with Times staff writer Ben Bolch through a weekly diary leading up to the draft April 27. This week, Mafi discusses his dream of hearing his name called in the draft.

I’ve thought about the moment a lot. It always unfolds the same way.

I’m sitting at home with my mom, dad and older brother back in the Bay Area, just the four of us like it’s always been. We all share in the excitement when the phone rings. I answer, knowing what’s coming next. I’ve been drafted by an NFL team.

It’s no longer just a dream. I’ve made it.

I hug everyone in my family, gripping them tightly. They were there with me every step of the way. This isn’t about just me but all of us.


What round I get taken in the draft doesn’t matter. Neither does the team. Of course, the earlier the better, and I’d love nothing more than to get picked by my hometown San Francisco 49ers. But the only thing I really need is a chance.

Playing in the NFL was a dream long before I played my first game for UCLA in 2018. Growing up in Shoreview, just a short drive from the old Candlestick Park, I was naturally drawn to the 49ers. Hearing stories about Joe Montana and watching linebacker Patrick Willis hold things down in the middle of the field made me an instant fan. We always watched the games and had tons of 49ers gear around the house.

Continue reading here

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.


From Ben Bolch: Lose two in a row or win 14 straight, it doesn’t matter.

Mick Cronin’s approach never changes.

“You’ve got to focus,” the UCLA basketball coach said Wednesday, “on getting better.”

The point is for his team to be playing its best basketball in March, like a sprinter hitting top speed while breasting the finish-line tape.

The Bruins of the past 1½ weeks have more closely resembled a runner stumbling face-first into a puddle of mud. Their offense is in a funk. Their focus continues to waver. Their rotations are still a mess.


Some perspective reveals none of these flaws as necessarily fatal. Ninth-ranked UCLA just completed the toughest portion of its schedule, dropping road games against Arizona and USC after pulling out a breathtaking victory over Arizona State that extended its win streak to 14.

There’s plenty of mileage left to cover as the Bruins hit the midpoint of Pac-12 play. Everything they want remains within reach.

Continue reading here


From Jeff Miller: Only Patrick Mahomes threw for more yards this season than Justin Herbert, who finished tied for second in the NFL in game-winning drives.

It’s little wonder then why Kellen Moore’s introductory news conference as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator Wednesday featured numerous questions about the team’s franchise quarterback.

Still, even with Herbert’s production to date and yet-unfulfilled potential entering his fourth NFL season, the biggest story for Moore is rooted on the ground.


If healthy, Herbert should continue to set records and carry this offense. But how the Chargers run the ball in 2023 will more greatly impact the overall success of their reimagined scheme.

Continue reading here


From Sam Farmer: Tom Brady owns every meaningful NFL passing record.

When it comes to retirement, though, the quarterback with seven Super Bowl rings doesn’t want to be an annual broken record.

A year after retiring and unretiring, Brady announced Wednesday that his playing career is done.

Looking somber and his voice cracking with emotion, Brady took to his social media accounts to share the news.


“Good morning, guys, I’ll get to the point right away: I’m retiring for good,” he said, while sitting on the beach, in a selfie-style video. “I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first. So I won’t be long-winded.

Continue reading here

Bobby Beathard dies, led Chargers to franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance as GM


Sunday, February 12
at Glendale, Ariz.
Philadelphia vs. Kansas City, 3:30 p.m. PT, Fox


We will win the Super Bowl? Click here to vote.

Super Bowl LVII: Start time, odds and halftime show


From Jack Harris: Dodgers executives addressed Trevor Bauer’s release for the first time publicly Wednesday, though they left several pressing questions about the process behind the decision unanswered, including details about their meeting with Bauer the day before cutting ties with him last month.


In a meeting with local reporters inside a Dodger Stadium conference room, club president Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman both said the team was confident it had made the right decision by releasing Bauer, whose 194-game suspension was the longest administered under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy.

“Most of what we know came from the fact that the commissioner’s office and the independent arbitrator reviewed all the aspects of the case and found him to be in violation, and to serve the longest suspension ever, under this policy,” Friedman said. “And as we went through that, that was enough for us. We feel good about our process and what led us to where we are now.”

Continue reading here


From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Dearica Hamby didn’t choose the Sparks. Just speaking to the team on the phone when the Las Vegas Aces made it clear they intended to trade the two-time All-Star moved Hamby to tears.

But hearing the emotion from Sparks general manager Karen Bryant on the other end of the line made Hamby know the Sparks were happily choosing her.

“I kind of fell in love with that,” Hamby said Wednesday in her first public comments since joining the Sparks in a trade that rocked the WNBA after the expectant mother posted a statement on Instagram accusing members of the Aces of discrimination.


Hamby is one of the Sparks’ newest additions as the team remakes its roster under Bryant and first-year coach Curt Miller. The franchise announced the signings of free agents Lexie Brown and Stephanie Talbot on Wednesday, the first day of the WNBA free-agent signing period, while former Sparks free agents Brittney Sykes and Kristi Toliver joined the Washington Mystics.

Wednesday’s opening salvo of free-agent moves added to the Sparks’ previous trade acquisitions of Hamby and guard Jasmine Thomas, who last played for Miller with the Connecticut Sun.

Continue reading here


1876 — The National League forms, consisting of teams in Philadelphia, Hartford, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis and New York.

1936 — Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson are the first members elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1954 — Bevo Francis of Rio Grande College scores 113 points in a 134-91 victory over Hillsdale. Francis, breaking his own record for small colleges (84) set two weeks earlier against Alliance College.


1962 — Using a fiberglass pole, John Uelses becomes the first man to vault more than 16 feet, indoors or out. Uelses, a Marine Corps corporal, clears 16¼ during the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York.

1977 — Toronto’s Ian Turnbull scores five goals to set an NHL record for defensemen, leading the Maple Leafs past the Detroit Red Wings 9-1.

1991 — New Hampshire’s basketball team ends its 32-game losing streak at home with a 72-56 win over Holy Cross. The NCAA-record streak started on Feb. 9, 1988.

1994 — Lenny Wilkens gets his 900th NBA victory, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic 118-99. Wilkens runs his regular-season mark to 900-760, trailing only Red Auerbach’s 938 in NBA regular-season victories.

1999 — Austria’s Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus ski to an unprecedented tie in the super-G to mark the start of the world championships.

2001 — Stacy Dragila breaks her world indoor pole vault record by a half-inch with a 15-2 1/4 vault at the Millrose Games.


2003 — Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley joins Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux by scoring a record-tying four goals in the NHL All-Star Game. His Eastern Conference team loses the first All-Star shootout 6-5.

2009 — Kobe Bryant breaks the current Madison Square Garden record with 61 points to lead the Lakers to a 126-117 victory over New York. Bryant, who hits all 20 of his free throws, tops the previous visitor record of 55 points held by Michael Jordan and the overall record of 60 by Bernard King.

2012 — Sam Gagner has four goals and four assists in the NHL’s first eight-point game in 23 years, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4.

2013 — California Institute of Technology’s baseball team ends a 228-game losing streak with a 9-7 victory against Pacifica, the Beavers’ first win in nearly 10 years. Caltech hadn’t won since Feb. 15, 2003, 5-4 against Cal State Monterey Bay.

2014 — The Seattle Seahawks win their first Super Bowl title, crushing the favored Denver Broncos. The Seahawks led 36-0 before Denver finally scored on the last play of the third quarter.

2017 — Patrick Marleau scores his 500th career goal, Chris Tierney tallies twice and San Jose beat Vancouver 4-1. Marleau becomes the 45th NHL player to reach 500 goals, scoring in the first period on a power play.


2020 - Super Bowl LIV, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL: Kansas City Chiefs beat San Francisco 49ers, 31-20; MVP: Patrick Mahomes, KC Chiefs, QB; Chiefs’ 1st victory in 50 years

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Kobe Bryant scores 61 points at Madison Square Garden. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.