Second-year guard Mike Iupati has started all 27 games of his career since the 49ers selected him with the No. 17 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. With his team on the verge of the playoffs, Iupati said he's focused solely on beating St. Louis this week and not on the postseason. 49ers.com spoke with Iupati about his development at the NFL level and his favorite players growing up.
Q: Knowing that you could clinch the NFC West with a win against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, what's the team's mindset heading into this game?
A: This is the NFL, every team is good. We just have to go out there and execute our game plan to get a win. You can't really let yourself think about clinching and all that stuff; it's all about the win. This is the most important game because it's the next one and the Rams have a good, young defensive line. They're all great players. If you're in the league, you're good. You must respect everybody. We just have to go out there and do our thing and perform our best. I'm sure they know our team well and they're going to study us hard, so it'll be our job to bring it.
Q: Frank Gore is only 22 yards away from becoming the all-time leading rusher in 49ers history. What makes him different than other backs you've blocked for?
A: He's just a great running back. The way he runs is unbelievable because he can squeeze through tiny holes on the line. The thing I like about him is he's not a dancer. I just love how he doesn't wait for anything, he just goes. Just puts his head down and goes. He's not trying to juke you or anything; he's just trying to run you over.
Q: How much more comfortable do you feel now that you're in the second year of your NFL career?
A: It takes time, but I am slowly but surely getting better every day. It takes a lot of hard work and great coaches. I give a lot of credit to offensive line coaches Tim Drevno and Mike Solari for the time they put in. Our whole coaching staff is really good at teaching the details and making sure we're where we need to be.
Q: How big of a football fan when you moved to America from Samoa, did you follow those 49er playoff teams of the 90s?
A: Not too much, to be honest. I really liked Ricky Williams and Randy Moss. I wanted to block for Ricky Williams. I should have shaken his hand last week after our game in Baltimore, but that's alright. Coming from Samoa I really didn't know much about football, but those are the players that I really wanted to play with.
Q: Now that you're a popular player in your own right, how often do you get stopped in public in the Bay Area?
A: Yeah, it's probably the hair. I trimmed it last summer, but I've had long hair since my sophomore year in college. It's just really cool to go out and hear people talking about the 49ers this year, I really feel like they're behind us and we feed off their energy. Heading into these last five games, we have the mindset that we have to go out there and win all five, because we're capable of doing it. We're confident and we know what we can do. We just have to keep pushing, because hopefully we'll have three games after that. As long as everybody takes care of their bodies every week, I think we'll be good.