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June 10, 2013
When Hand lined up against Mama Saturday afternoon on Soldier Field during the Five-Star Rivals Challenge presented by Under Armour, he had been dominating every offensive linemen in one-on-one drills.
As Hand sprung off the line of scrimmage, everything suddenly changed. Mama ?took his massive paw and planted it right in Hand's face.
The blow stopped Hand dead in his tracks.
SCOOPHD: DAMIEN MAMA TALKS OU, RECRUITING AT RIVALS CHALLENGE
The top defensive end in the country didn't quit, but the 6-foot-5, 360-pound Mama swallowed up Hand after he stuttered.
The rep was over and Hand met his first setback of the Rivals Challenge in one-on-one drills.
"Just being able to compete is probably the biggest thing with my coaches," said Hand in describing that play, and that blow to Hand's dominance in Chicago. "Just knowing that punch can stop anybody has been the biggest thing preparing for this offseason."
The other interesting aspect of that matchup between Mama and Hand was this: Hand ended up with the defensive line MVP trophy at the end of the event.
Mama ended up with the offensive line MVP trophy at the end of the event.
"It was a great experience going against great competition and taking home this MVP is cool," said the soft-spoken Mama.
As for recruiting, Mama says he's looking at Oklahoma, Alabama, USC, Washington, Florida and Florida State. He also smiled when he mentioned he had just been offered by Ohio State.
Mama, a Bellflower, Calif., native, is thought by some to be a safe bet for a west coast school such as USC or Washington.? But he says he wants to start narrowing things down before the start of his senior season.
"It's been pretty crazy. I've just been receiving offers and it's a blessing," said Mama. "Talking with Oklahoma, they really like me and I'm really interested in Oklahoma because it's a great offensive line school."
Mama didn't speak about a definite plan on when he wants to narrow things down, just that he knows there are still a lot of things he has to learn about the schools with the most interest in him.
"I've been trying (to narrow things down) but I really want to do my homework on a school instead of just pushing them aside based on a name," he said.
Does Oklahoma have a real chance here? It's hard to say. It's that whole thing about being soft spoken that makes this giant so hard to read.
One thing is for certain for Bill Bedenbaugh and Oklahoma. After watching Mama dominate the Rivals Challenge, he's one player that can help the Sooners re-establish a physical presence up front, the same way Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt once did.
Those guys led Oklahoma back to a national championship appearance with Sam Bradford.
If Mama ends up in Norman, he could be a strong anchor along the offensive line to make another run at the crystal ball.