Grant Mason was one of the top High Seniors in the state of Michigan in 2001. Hailing from Pontiac Michigan and playing his high school ball with Jermaine Gonzales at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Mason dreamed of playing football at The University of Michigan. The instate class that year was very deep and the Wolverines were short on scholarships. With the precarious scholarship situation, Michigan took its time with offers and evaluated Grant most of his senior season. In the meantime, other prestigious schools like Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Stanford tendered scholarship offers. Rather than wait on Michigan, Grant decided to take his talents out West to Palo Alto and play for the Cardinal of Stanford. Three years later, however, circumstances and opportunity have led him to Ann Arbor to fulfill his dream of being a Michigan Wolverine.
This is a very impressive young man and was truly one of the most delightful interviews I’ve conducted in the time I’ve been doing this. I’d like to thank Grant for taking time out to have this conversation. Below is part 1 of my Q&A with the newest member of the Big House family.
Tell me how your first two years at Stanford went.
“When I first got out there, I went out there under Tyrone Willingham. He, of course, is the coach for Notre Dame now. My first year went really well. I did well in school. I held better than a 3.0 average, and football was going well. My first year, we went 9 and 2, I redshirted. I would like to have played, but he redshirted our whole class. I felt like I would have been in the top three or four receivers, but we decided that it would be better if I went ahead and got one year of school out of the way. Then, over the winter he decided to leave and go to Notre Dame. I respected and understood his decision.”
It was said that when he left, a lot of players were pretty disappointed.
“Well, that's he recruited all of us and he said that he really enjoyed being there. I am sure that he did in some aspects. But you know, I guess for personal reasons, he felt that Notre Dame was a better job for him. I understood that. All around, it is one of the top coaching jobs in football if not THE top coaching job in football. That’s a prestigious position, especially for a minority. Him getting a job there carries a lot of weight.”
What was the new coach’s name at Stanford?
When he came in your second year, how did that go for you?
“He came in pretty open minded, talking a lot of passing. As a receiver, I was in to that. Then we got into spring and it went real well. When we came out the spring, one guy was pretty banged up so I came out of the spring right in the top 2 at my position. Then we came into the season and in the first four games I had like 17 catches, I was on top of the PAC 10 in punt returning, and the season was going well even though we weren’t winning. That was the only disappointing thing. Then, one of the guys that was kind of banged banged up (Luke Powell) came back, and it was just like they conceded everything to him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s my boy! He was an All-American as a returner the year before. Once he came back from his injury, I went from like 17 catches in the first 4 game to about 3 catches in the next 5 games. I think I ended up catching about 3 or so the last game."
So basically, it was a situation where once Powell cam back they moved you down despite your early season performance?
“Right. And it was upsetting, but I understood. I just thought that it was going to be my season and my time to shine with all the others were talking about moving on to do other things. Another thing it came down to was we went 2 and 9 and that hurt my confidence a lot. Especially knowing the type of players that we had on our team. We put like 7 guys in the league. I thought that it would be more beneficial for me to get out of it while I still had eligibility left and could possibly make a move. I didn't’t want to jump to conclusions and my father was real unsure about me leaving a situation where he felt like things were going well, into another situation where he didn’t know if I would have the opportunities at other Universities. So, my father helped me out. He and a few other people made phone calls for me and we found out if people were still interested. I got my release, and once it came I got offers from Notre Dame and Michigan.”
Let’s talk about before you made your decision to transfer. You had switched to corner in the spring, right?
“I switched to corner in the spring because we had one of the corners down. I came out of high school heavily recruited as a defensive back, so I felt like I could do that as well. I wanted to go into the spring and show people that I could do that. So the initial thing for me going into the spring was to spend 3 days on defense and see how that went, and then get back on offense and spend the rest of the spring there. Well, we were short on players because one of the corners was already out. He had surgery. Then another kid went down the second day. So we had like 3 corners during the whole spring including me. So because of numbers, I ended up staying. But it was never a position change. I wanted show them that I could do it so I could hopefully earn a spot on the nickel, and remain as a receiver. I had directions to play both ways like I saw other people do, and I felt like I could honestly do it. It ended up where the media saw me playing corner and they thought that I was doing a real good job and I guess it was concluded that I changed my position. I made sure that I told everyone that it wasn’t a position change, that I was just getting on defense to get back to what I did in high school, help the team out, show people that I could do it, but remain primarily an offensive player. Something got misconstrued somewhere. I know it didn’t come from me. Somewhere, people thought that I had made a position change. It was kind of bothering me and I went to the coach, and he was saying no it isn’t a position change, so we got that ironed out. All summer I worked out as a receiver and I was ready to go to camp as a receiver. I guess in the minds of some people I was still at corner, I don’t know.” (chuckle)
So you make your decision to transfer. Are Michigan and Notre Dame the only 2 schools to offer you?
“They were the only two that I really considered.”
Ultimately, what were your deciding factors in choosing Michigan?
“This past spring, which was another major thing for me, I had a daughter. I was out in California and it was hurting me to not see her grow. I came home in March when she was born, and then I came home again in June and I had missed so much in just those two and a half months. I was wishing that I could do more, but I was in a situation where everyone was telling me that I was doing the right thing by staying in school. I understand that but I was looking at it like there’s a possibility that I could do what I’m doing closer to home and it might actually work out better in the end. And that was really the reason why I really only considered those two schools.”
Check back for part 2 of this interview tomorrow.