Malzahn Lavishes Praise On Mason

Gus Malzahn talks about record-setting running back Tre Mason and the junior's decision to enter the NFL Draft.

Auburn, Ala.--After Tre Mason announced on Thursday he is leaving Auburn to enter the 2014 NFL?Draft, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn lavished praise on the SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

Mason led the Tigers to the SEC football title and a berth in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game. The junior saved his best performances for the end of his career, rushing for 304 yards vs. Missouri in the SEC Championship Game and 195 vs. FSU in the national title contest.

Malzahn said the pro team that signs Mason will be adding an impressive football player to its roster.

"They are getting one of the tougher individuals in all of college football," Malzahn declared. "He can run between the tackles. He has great courage. He plays his best games in the biggest games. He is a good receiver out of the backfield also."

After rushing for 1,002 yards as a sophomore in 2012, Mason really blossomed as a junior as he rushed for an Auburn school-record total of 1,816 yards in a single season and also set school single-season marks for rushing touchdowns with 32, points scored with 150 and all-purpose yards with 2,374.

"This year going into it we opened everything--every position," Malzahn said. "Like Tre was saying, we have got some other really talent running backs. We started identifying who we were probably around the Ole Miss game. He just kind of took it from there and started playing his best football. He improved each week and helped us get to the national championship game."

Going into the season Auburn's head coach said he knew Mason was likely going to have a strong year, but the junior becoming the focal point of the rushing attack is something that just happened during the course of Auburn's run to a 12-2 finish and SEC Championship.

"You go with who is hot," Malzahn said. "He wanted the football and we just kept giving it to him. He did positive things with it.

"People knew we were running it, they knew he was getting it and he was able to get positive yards," Malzahn pointed out. "He made some very hard yards. We played some very good defenses, especially late in the season. That is when he was at his best.

"The special running backs have that ability when the moment is the biggest, that is when they make a play," Malzahn said. "He did that the other night."

Tre Mason runs the football vs. FSU in Pasadena on Monday night.

Mason's 37-yard touchdown run put Auburn ahead late in the 34-31 loss to FSU, a game the Seminoles won with a touchdown pass in the closing seconds.

"He is a great competitor," Malzahn said. "He wants to win. That is the thing that stands out to me about Tre Mason. He doesn't get distracted with all of the other stuff, but his goal is to play in the NFL so it (his decision) didn't surprise me. He told me that when I was recruiting him.

"Coming out he is either the best running back, or one of the best running backs," the coach said. "Of course, in my opinion he is the best running back in college football right now."

Malzahn said whoever signs Mason for their NFL team is getting a player with a tremendous desire to be successful. "He understand you have to work hard to get to where you need to be.

"As a coach you are always looking for leaders," Malzahn said. "Guys will look up to those leaders, and Tre was one of our leaders. He led by example and helped us get to the national championship (game) 13 seconds away from winning it."

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