Gophers’ Boye Mafe selected 40th by Seattle Seahawks
“It was euphoric,” Mafe told local media members. “My phone was sitting on the table and then all of sudden, I got a call."
On the first try Friday, Boye Mafe missed the life-changing phone call, but the Seattle Seahawks were quick to call back. The long-distance call from Seattle to Minnesota informed the Gophers’ homegrown defensive end he would be 40th draft pick in the second round of the NFL draft.
“It was euphoric,” Mafe told local media members. “My phone was sitting on the table and then all of sudden, I got a call. Then it was a missed call. Then it called again and I picked it up and there — it was crazy. My heart jumped. I’m still on cloud nine. I’m still just sitting here, taking it all in.”
Mafe, a projected late first- or second-round pick, just missed out on being the first Gophers’ defensive player to be drafted in the first round since cornerback Willie Middlebrooks in 2001, but Mafe represents the highest Minnesota defender selected since tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, a Minneapolis native, went 37th to Atlanta in 2014.
Mafe, a former three-star recruit from Hopkins High School and late addition to P.J. Fleck’s first recruiting class in 2017, became the fourth Gopher to be drafted in the second round in the last nine years, following Hageman, tight end Maxx Williams taken 55th by Baltimore in 2015 and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. going 45th to Tampa Bay in 2020.
Mafe traveled to Washington State for a private visit with the Seahawks before the draft and said he was pleasantly surprised by a first impression from head coach Pete Carroll.
“The first thing was when I walked into the room, Pete Carroll knew exactly who I was,” Mafe said. “I was kind of nervous about that. It was a surreal moment to hear from a legendary coach like that, to know your name and who you are.”
Mafe watched as two fellow Big Ten edge players came off the board just before him: Purdue’s George Karlaftis at 30th to the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the first round and then Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie at 38th to the Atlanta Falcons.
“It was anxious,” Mafe said. “The whole time you are just hoping the next team is your team. Then you are sitting there waiting, honestly. Every time they announce a pick you are waiting for the next pick. It was a lot of being nervous the whole time.”
ESPN commentator Mel Kiper recalled how Mafe shined at the Senior Bowl week in January but had criticisms, too. “He flies off the edge; he’s has a great attitude, a great approach,” Kiper said. “He’s a little raw, though. He doesn’t change directions that well. He’s a one-trick pony right now. He’s not a factor dropping off into coverage.”
Booger McFarland added Mafe can be a situational pass rusher starting in Week 1 but will need to play the run better in the NFL. Louis Riddick noted how Mafe improved as the 2021 season progressed.
Mafe will be an outside linebacker in the Seahawks’ 3-4 defensive front used by new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.
“For me, it’s getting in there and getting an understanding of the defense and really finding my role,” Mafe said. “They said be ready to come in and compete on first and second down (on top of third down) and special teams. … That is my mindset.”
At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, Mafe impressed with a 4.53 40-yard dash and 10-foot, 5-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. He had a 38-inch vertical in Indianapolis and improved that mark by four inches to 42 at the U’s Pro Day in April. He led the Gophers with seven sacks last season, and his 15 careers sacks ranks ninth all-time in school history.