Marcus Mason and the love of a brother & dad

THE HIGH-ANKLE sprain that ruined Marcus Mason's spring season is off limits, as all injuries are, when it comes to talking with Cougar players and coaches. But rest assured, the unassuming senior running back who collected more touches and racked up more total yards than any Cougar last season outside of Connor Halliday has plenty to share.

He describes himself in one word: "chill." Low-key, however, is not how he performed in a breakout junior season in 2013. He led the Cougs in rushing, was second in pass receptions, and also returned a couple of kickoffs. In all, he totaled 882 yards and four TDs.

His road from nowhere (65 total yards in 2012) to team leader and prime player in the Air Raid is one of perseverance and positive thinking.

But it's also the tale of a kid whose dad and older brother helped him dodge obstacles on some rough streets in southern California.

CF.C: Describe your life growing up
Marcus Mason : I started off in not too good of an area, lived with my mom and my dad until I was around age 5. Then I moved and ended up living with my dad. From there, I grew up and we lived in a nice house but the area around it was not too good. Finally, when I was in the sixth grade, my dad ended up getting a different job and we got to move into the suburbs, and that was good. Being in that area had good competition for football, so that helped my skill level rise.

CF.C: Talk a little bit more about the neighborhood where you grew up.
MM: It was a rough neighborhood. A lot of gangs were starting up, and there would be a lot of shootings around the area.

CF.C: How did you keep yourself out of trouble and away from those gangs?
MM: I always rode my bike to school with my older brother, and we always went everywhere together. No matter what, even if we had friends who would get in trouble, we always stuck together and made sure neither one was doing anything stupid. Even if someone would try to get us to join a gang, we would just leave. He always protected me, and I always protected him, so if he knew I was getting ready to do something stupid, he wouldn't let me. We were each other's bodyguards.

CF.C: When did you start playing football and what made you choose that sport?
MM: When I was little, I used to always play football and basketball. In basketball, I wasn't really that good but I always somehow made it on the team … In football, I was always really good at it, especially since flag football when I was really little. When I finally moved to Pop Warner, I had a rough time because I always tried to play on my older brother's team, and he's two years older than me, so I was always trying to play with the bigger kids. That didn't work out for the first year or two, so I wasn't too good because of the skill level of the kids who were so much older than me. Finally, when I started playing with kids who were my age, I started to stand out, and around seventh or eighth grade was when I started to excel and stand out among everyone.

CF.C: When you were playing on your older brother's team, did that discourage you that you were worse?
MM: It didn't really discourage me. It just meant that I had to work harder. I used to be horrible at conditioning so I would be the last one but it also inspired me and made me work harder because I wanted to be on the team, so I just kept working at it until I finally earned a spot.

CF.C: Who was your role model growing up and why?
MM: My dad. Even though he wasn't always there, throughout the day he was working. We wouldn't see him at night, so we'd wake up in the morning and we would see him right before he left, and we wouldn't see him until late at night because he was working so late. When it came to sports and things, he always made sure to get us to our practices and to our games on time, and try to balance both our games. He always coached most of my sports, whether it was baseball or football, and he's always giving me the right advice. He never told me anything that was wrong, and the only thing I have trouble with is determining whether I believe him or not. He's always right, so when I don't listen, he always ends up being right and I always end up slapping myself and asking why I didn't listen the first time. He always has my back whenever I'm in need or something goes wrong. I know that I can always count on him.

CF.C: You were voted a team captain five times last season. Do you lead by example or vocally?
MM: I'm more of a leader through example and then sometimes I may give verbal leadership or talk sometimes. This year, I plan to be more verbal as well as leading by example and hard work, but also trying to encourage my teammates to do the same thing as me.

CF.C: Do you enjoy that leadership role?
MM: I like it. It's different, and it actually makes you more accountable, so it makes your game have to be that much better. You be that much more focused because everyone is counting on you. They look up to you because you're the captain. You can't be one of those people who is passive and things like that. You have to be really aggressive and encouraging.

CF.C: Do you listen to a particular song before games?
MM: I usually listen to something from Chance the Rapper, but I don't have a particular song.

CF.C: If you had to pick one thing, what makes you really mad?
MM: The only thing that makes me mad is when we play teams and sometimes teams think they're really good, and they'll try to say, ‘Oh, you play at Washington State.' I just tell them to look at the scoreboard. Sometimes they say, ‘You're at Washington State and we're beating you,' so basically when they try to diss the university.

CF.C: What's your goal after college?
MM: I'm going to give it one shot at the NFL, and if it doesn't work out, I'm not going to be one of those people that's always pursuing it, like going over to England and Canada. It's just one shot, and if I got the opportunity, I'll make the most of it, and when that ends, either try to get a job in sales or find a job somewhere where I can make some decent money so I can live comfortably.

CF.C: Do you feel more pressure this year because it's your last season?
MM: I just feel like whatever comes, comes. I'm always going to play my hardest and try to do my best, but I'm not going to try to overdo it and knock myself if I didn't do as good as I did in a certain game. My only goal is to win. I could care less about my individual performance. I'd rather have the team doing good rather than my individual performance, so if I have a 1,500-yard rushing season and we only win three games, I wouldn't think the season was successful. I'd rather have an 800-yard season and we win nine or 10 games. That would be more ideal for me.

THE PRIDE OF ETIWANDA HIGH RUSHED FOR 429 YARDS AND CAUGHT 390 YARDS WORTH OF PASSES FOR THE COUGS IN 2013.


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