WSU's Mason spent months prepping for Pro Day

PULLMAN -- Vince Mayle will have something to prove Thursday when scouts come to Pullman for NFL Pro Day. His 40 times at the NFL Combine were disappointing and a broken thumb kept him from catching. But when it comes to the most to gain from Thursday's workouts, no outgoing Cougar will have more on the line than running back Marcus Mason.

"I'm expecting to open some scouts' eyes," Mason tells "They will see my skills and want to give me an opportunity to try to play for their team."

Unlike Mayle, Xavier Cooper, Connor Halliday, Toni Pole, Cyrus Coen and other Cougs who will be on hand Thursday, Mason comes in with a slate that contains almost no fresh game film on him. For reasons that baffle the 5-9, 187-pounder, he touched the ball but nine times in 2014 -- one catch, three kick returns and five rushing attempts.

Mind you now, that disappearing act followed a workhorse 2013 season when he led the Cougars in all-purpose yards, rushing for a team-high 429 yards, grabbing the second-most passes (52 for 390 yards) and returning 3 kickoffs for 46 yards. His work earned him the Randall Simmons/Offensive Coaches Award.

An injury last spring first allowed Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks to leapfrog Mason on the depth chart but when he was fully recovered for the regular season he was basically a forgotten man and firmly behind Morrow and Wicks on the depth chart -- a circumstance that prompted him to uncharacteristically boil over in an NFL Draft Diamonds interview last month. “I was fooled by my coaching staff going into my senior year … I outworked everybody and to be beat out by politics alone was crushing,” he said.

He's hoping to put all that behind him on Thursday with sights set on posting a 40 time in the range of 4.3 to 4.49 seconds. He's confident that his combination of speed and hands will impress NFL scouts.

To prepare for Pro Day, Mason has worked out at STARS in Anaheim, Calif., with former WSU and Colts Super Bowl champion Jason David. Under the guidance of David and former USC running backs coach Todd McNair, Mason has focused on combine drills and route running.

"I also caught a lot of passes by hand and off the jugs machine shooting 80-plus-mile-per-hour footballs until my arms were bruised and gloves ripped," Mason said.

The training doesn't stop there. Mason has also worked with former NFL player Leonard Russell on speed training, changing direction, agility and strength drills. Mason said he scheduled two sessions a day between the various trainers. He would lift weights and run hills during the times he wasn't scheduled for a workout.

"(This) means everything to me. Growing up, I always wanted to have a shot at the NFL and this is my opportunity. It allows me the opportunity to prove myself to scouts," Mason said.

As a low-visibility player in 2014, Mason of course did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine but he did participate in the regional combine in Denver in late February. While he's put his agent in charge of handling most of the interviews with scouts, he did have one interview himself after the Denver combine in which he says he was told he was explosive and with a good skills set.

If Pro Day doesn't lead Mason onto a pro football path, he plans to continue his career in sales and the financial services industry. He also would like to give back to the community by possibly helping coach his high school team. Life after football seems to be an afterthought at this point, though. The running back brings a lot of confidence with him heading into Pro Day.

"I have always made it a goal to be in this position and play in the NFL, and I always knew I was good enough," Mason said.

Pro Day will be held in WSU's Indoor Practice Facility on Thursday (the session is closed to the public). The NFL Draft will be held April 30 - May 2.

One senior who will not participate is long snapper Alex Den Bleyker, who confirmed with CF.C that he will not take part in Pro Day.

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