The New England Patriots selected 12 players in the 2023 NFL Draft, and two of them come with some prior connection to the organization. Marte Mapu and Atonio Mafi both have family ties to the club through their uncle and cousin, respectively.
Mapu, who was brought aboard as a third-round draft pick, is the nephew of the late Junior Seau.
“That’s my uncle,” he told patriots.com shortly after getting drafted 76th overall. “I only met him once, but my dad an my uncles, that’s a part of their childhood. They grew up together. So, football is just a part of my blood.”
Seau already had a Hall of Fame career to look back on when he joined the Patriots in 2006. He went on to spend four seasons in New England and appeared in 42 total games for the club. He retired for good in 2010, and just two years later took his own life.
Mapu did not appear to have an overly close relationship with Seau, but he did follow the advice he gave him in their only meeting.
“I always remember when he asked the question and he goes to him, ‘What can I do to get better?’” Marte’s father, Av’e Mapu, told CBS Sports last September. “Junior just told him, ‘Hey, I know you’re too young right now to know, but for me, it’s film study.’”
Mapu was 10 at the time. 13 years later, he is now trying to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
The footsteps left behind by Atonio Mafi’s cousin were not particularly noteworthy, for comparison. Devin Asiasi was drafted in the third round in 2020, but after just two disappointing seasons was released by the Patriots and claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Nonetheless, he only had good things to say about the club to his cousin.
“He’s just told me already that it’s a great place,” Mafi said during a media conference call on Saturday. “I was there when he got drafted to the Patriots, and his mom is here too right now for my draft party. It’s just been really good. I talked to him right after the call actually and he told me to go in with an open mind and to be really excited, come in with my head on right and get ready to work. I’m just really excited.”
Mafi was drafted three years and two rounds after Asiasi, joining the club as the 144th selection in the fifth round this weekend.