Huge game propels Auburn’s Mason to New York
Auburn coaches kept checking on the sidelines: How is Tre?
Carry after carry, touchdown after touchdown, Tre Mason
tirelessly demonstrated in the Southeastern Conference championship
game against Missouri that he could handle the load for the
”Tre had that look on his face,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn
said. ”In between series, I’d go ask him, `You OK?’ He said,
`Coach, keep giving it to me. We’re going to win the SEC
championship.’ He had that look in his eyes. We weren’t going to
take him out unless he took himself out.”
Mason delivered as promised. The junior tailback carried Auburn
(12-1) to a national title shot against Florida State with 46
rushes, 304 yards, four touchdowns and two Heisman poses.
He also earned himself a trip to New York as one of six Heisman
Trophy finalists, joining tailback Andre Williams (Boston College)
and quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Florida State), AJ McCarron
(Alabama, Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) and Johnny Manziel
That marathon performance in the Georgia Dome came a week after
the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Mason ran 29 times for 164 yards against
Alabama’s normally unyielding defense. Delivering on those huge
stages carried into the national spotlight a tailback often
overshadowed in the SEC by players like Georgia’s Todd Gurley and
Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon.
”He’s one of the best players in college football, there’s no
doubt,” Malzahn said.
But Mason had largely floated under the national radar, and was
only a preseason second-team All-SEC pick. A week earlier, Malzahn
said quarterback Nick Marshall ”should be in the mix” for the
Heisman. Mason vaulted past his teammate.
Twice a 1,000-yard rusher, he became an overnight sensation.
Bo Jackson, Auburn’s 1985 Heisman winner, gave him high praise
after the performance.
”He was like, `You’re probably one of the best players to ever
put on an Auburn helmet,”’ Mason said. ”He just was thanking me
for being here. I was thanking him for being a mentor to me.”
Mason is chasing down Jackson’s records. His 1,621 rushing
yards, sixth-best nationally, are 165 yards behind Jackson’s record
set during the Heisman season. Mason’s 22 rushing touchdowns are
one behind the SEC record set by Florida’s Tim Tebow en route to
the 2007 Heisman.
Mason, who also returns kicks, has already set the school mark
with 2,137 all-purpose yards for the nation’s top rushing team.
”I don’t want to say I expected it, but I’ve worked toward
it,” said Mason, who is considering skipping his senior season to
enter the NFL draft. ”There’s a lot of goals and dreams that I
have. I remember saying my goal at the beginning of the season was
1,500 yards. And people said, Oh, that’s too much. Whatever you put
your mind to, you can do it. I’ve surpassed that and I’m looking
forward to keep doing.”
He learned the mind-set of aiming high from his parents, Tina
and Vincent Mason. Vincent Mason is a member of the hip hop group
De La Soul, but Mason remembers living in New York with his
grandmother before his father’s music career took off.
”My dad being who he is also made me more hungry, because he
started from the bottom,” Mason said. ”He’s come from nothing and
he’s worked his way up. He doesn’t give us everything (on) a silver
spoon. He makes us work for everything we have to make us as hungry
as he was.”
He demurs when asked if he’s now the most famous person in his
family. ”Nah, my dad has a lot more experience than me,” Mason
said. ”He’s a legend.”
Mason wasn’t even in the Heisman conversation until the final
two games. He ran for 1,002 yards as a sophomore, but split carries
with Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne – not to mention
1,000-yard rusher Marshall – early in the season.
Three games in, he had 206 yards and two touchdowns.
Mason, who also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return in the
opener against Washington State, has picked good times to shine. In
four games against Top 10 teams, Mason has averaged 194.5 yards and
scored eight touchdowns.
He’s embracing his newfound acclaim nationally.
”It’s a whole lot of fun,” said Mason, who was named SEC
offensive player of the year by AP. ”Just playing the game that I
love and just getting rewarded for it, it can’t get any better than