In preparing for the NFL combine, and the NFL draft, former Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea is utilizing all of his resources.

That includes Joe Staley, a 13-year NFL veteran offensive tackle who retired in 2019.

Laumea has been working in Irvine, California, during the last four months with the former San Francisco 49ers player, who went to six Pro Bowls.

“I know some scouts are questionable on my (football) IQ, so I’ve been working with Joe Staley doing a lot of board work and just understanding how different plays work zone, wide zone, all those little things,” Laumea said.

Spending all of that time with someone who had a successful and long NFL career can only be a good thing as Laumea begins his own pro journey.

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“I certainly have a lot of respect for him as a player and I would imagine that that’s a huge benefit for Sataoa to be able to see what it’s like to be a true professional and how they go about studying the game and perfecting their technique,” Utah offensive line coach Jim Harding said.

A four-star recruit from Rialto, California, Laumea had high expectations, and after a redshirt season, he lived up to them pretty much immediately. He started all five games at right guard in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, earning a spot on the Pac-12 all-conference second team.

“He certainly has a high care factor from the time he got here and I think that’s why he was able to play early on in his career,” Harding said.

Versatility

The 6-foot-4, 311-pound Laumea never let go of a spot in the starting lineup, but he did show his versatility by playing both guard and tackle, starting out at guard in his first two seasons before finishing his final two years at Utah at tackle.

No matter the position, every season Laumea finished with All-Pac-12 honors — second team in his redshirt freshman year, honorable mention his sophomore year, first team his junior year, and second team his senior season. His best performance came in 2022, when Utah won its second-straight Pac-12 championship.

“I really was impressed by the way that each and every year he continued to get better. I think he definitely developed the ability to be a student of the game as he matured through the program,” Harding said.

Recruited by a number of schools, including USC, Oregon, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and BYU, Laumea chose Utah and was one of the anchors of the 2019 recruiting class.

That decision paid off in a big way, Laumea feels.

“Utah made me, man. I feel like a lot of my strengths are because I came here. I love the culture, I love their brand of football and I feel like that helped develop me, too,” Laumea said. “If you watch Utah football, they play a very physical brand of football and we play as one. So I feel like whatever team picks me up, I’ll bond with my O-line and I’ll play for one another and I’ll get after it, play pretty physical, too.”

Harding’s favorite moment from Laumea’s time at Utah came in 2021, when he had a key block on Tavion Thomas’ 25-yard touchdown run that put the finishing touches on the Utes’ win over UCLA on an emotional night for the program as they retired the No. 22 for Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan.

“He pulled to the left … and ended up trapping an edge rusher and ended up springing the play for about a 25-yard touchdown run,” Harding said. “And then after the play, you could again see his passion, his excitement for the game as he’s finishing his block, as well as going down to the field and going down to the end zone to see his teammates after scoring a touchdown.”

‘This kid loves football’

Harding described Laumea as “soft-spoken” and he came across that way when he was talking to the media. But watching him on the field is a different story.

“If you didn’t watch the film, you would wonder sometimes how much this kid loves football, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Harding said. “When you turn the film on, he shows a lot of passion and energy and great body language.”

Though he played at tackle for the last two seasons at Utah, his NFL future is likely at guard, and that’s what he’s been working on with Staley. Laumea believes that playing guard will be his best chance to break into an NFL starting lineup, and he’s excited about returning to his old position because of the physicality.

“I feel like guard is just more fun. You’re just one, two steps and your contact’s right there,” Laumea said.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranks Laumea as the ninth-best guard in the draft, projected for a fourth-round selection, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. also has him as the ninth-best guard.

His quickness and agility at the position, along with his strength and technique, has him set up to make that transition to the NFL smoothly.

“I think by him playing on the inside, that’s his natural position,” Harding said. “I do feel he has a unique combination of not only being able to be a powerful player, but he also has very good athleticism.”

“And so I think he can transition well to any organization, whether they’re a zone-blocking scheme or a gap-blocking team. And I just think he has a good combination of both in the run game and then certainly as a guard, his athleticism and the pass protection is certainly a benefit and I think he’s going to transition really well and I think whatever team ends up drafting him will be really happy with the results.”

Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis.
Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea runs a drill at the NFL Scouting Combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis. | Darron Cummings, Associated Press