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NFL Draft: The Six Bay Area Natives Going Pro

Written by Ethan KasselPublished May 01, 2023 • 1:19pm
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener (9) was selected by the New Orleans Saints. | Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Six Bay Area boys were among the 259 players chosen in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Standard has a breakdown of who got the call and where they’ll be heading to start their NFL careers.

CB Mekhi Blackmon, Minnesota Vikings

An East Palo Alto native, Blackmon was selected by the Vikings with the final pick of the third round (102nd overall). He played for current Riordan head coach Adhir Ravipati at Menlo-Atherton, graduating in 2017, and then spent a year at College of San Mateo before heading to Colorado. After four seasons with the Buffaloes, he became one of the most coveted names in the transfer portal and chose to use his final year of collegiate eligibility at USC.

DE Viliami ‘Junior’ Fehoko, Dallas Cowboys

Fehoko, known commonly as “Junior,” has played his entire career in the Bay Area to this point. The East Palo Alto native and St. Francis alum wasn't an enormous prospect coming out of high school, but made the All-Mountain West First Team three times at San Jose State and was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

“In high school, he was a very good player for us, but he hadn’t really reached his potential,” St. Francis head coach Greg Calcagno said of Fehoko. “He’s done nothing but work his tail off since he arrived at San Jose State.”

Dallas selected him in the fourth round with the 129th overall pick. He is not related to Cowboys wide receiver Simi Fehoko, who played at Stanford, but he is cousins with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea.

DE Isaiah Foskey, New Orleans Saints

Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey (7) was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round. | G Fiume/Getty Images

The first Bay Area player to be picked in 2023, Foskey grew up in Antioch and prepped at De La Salle before choosing Notre Dame over Alabama, Cal and Michigan. Foskey recorded 11 sacks in each of his final two seasons with the Fighting Irish. Shortly after being drafted in the second round with the 40th overall pick, Foskey paid a visit to high school teammate Gunnar Rask, who was in the hospital with his grandfather and was unable to attend Foskey’s draft party.

QB Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints

Foskey will be joined in Saints camp by Haener, who played his high school ball at Monte Vista. The son of KTVU anchor Julie Haener, Jake struggled as a redshirt freshman at Washington but thrived at Fresno State. In his three seasons as the Bulldogs’ starter, he threw for 67 touchdowns against just 17 interceptions and led a memorable game-winning drive against UCLA in 2021 despite battling multiple injuries. Haener, who grew up idolizing Drew Brees, was selected in the fourth round with the 127th overall pick, one pick ahead of back-to-back national champion QB Stetson Bennett.

G Atonio Mafi, New England Patriots

Mafi, from the Shoreview neighborhood of San Mateo, is following in Tom Brady’s footsteps as a Serra alum drafted by the Patriots. New England chose him in the fifth round with the 144th overall pick. Mafi—whose first name is spelled Atonio, not Antonio—originally committed to Cal, but ended up following assistant coach Jerry Azzinaro to UCLA. The 2017 West Catholic Athletic League Player of the Year was recruited as a defensive tackle but ultimately played left guard for the Bruins, and will presumably play as an interior lineman for the Patriots. Mafi is cousins with former UCLA teammate Devin Asiasi, who was drafted by the Patriots and now plays tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals.

LB Henry To’oTo’o, Houston Texans

Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) was selected by the Houston Texans. | John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of the six Bay Area draftees, To’oTo’o was the most prized recruit out of high school. A punishing linebacker from De La Salle, To’oTo’o started at Tennessee as a true freshman, then transferred to Alabama. He was a Second Team All-SEC linebacker in 2020 with the Volunteers and in 2021 with the Crimson Tide, then was named to the First Team in 2022. He was selected by Houston in the fifth round with the 167th pick of the draft, and he’ll join Alabama teammate Will Anderson Jr. with the Texans. Houston traded up to draft Anderson with the third overall pick.

Undrafted Free Agents

Among the undrafted free agents from the Bay Area who signed following the conclusion of the draft were running back Jordan Mims, who inked a deal with the Buffalo Bills, and safety Bennett Williams, who joined the Miami Dolphins. Mims played at Menlo-Atherton and Fresno State, while Williams played at St. Francis and started at Oregon for three seasons after spending one year at Illinois and two at College of San Mateo.

Cornerback Rejzohn Wright, who played at James Logan High in Union City and Laney College before starting at Oregon State, signed with the Carolina Panthers. The San Francisco 49ers signed University of Washington offensive lineman Corey Luciano, another Monte Vista product who also played at Diablo Valley College. Luciano’s high school and college teammate, kicker Peyton Henry, is headed to New York Giants training camp.

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