“U-Dub has always been in my heart, so I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity,” Mason Stone said Tuesday. “There’s nothing I want more than to play football in my hometown in front of my friends and family.”
Stone had a number of scholarship offers from schools like Northern Colorado and Idaho State, and took an official visit to Northern Colorado. He would have likely signed with UNC Wednesday, but a call to Washington Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake made that move moot.
“I’ve had the preferred walk-on offer for some time now but when you’re a preferred walk-on you still have to get admitted,” Stone said. “So I still had to go through the application process. I’ve already taken care of everything. I’ve worked really hard on my grades.
“I talked to Coach Lake Tuesday and he let me know that everything looks good and that they are excited for my future as a Dawg. I didn’t want to go put my foot in my mouth and say it and then it turns out I wasn’t accepted. I just wanted to be patient with it and then I got the go-ahead today so I just decided to share it with my family and fiends.
“I’m just excited for this opportunity.”
Stone’s path to Montlake could charitably be characterized as ‘rocky’. He had a walk-on opportunity to Washington even out of Mountlake Terrace High School, but chose to accept a full ride to Idaho.
“I went there, but unfortunately due to a Clearinghouse technicality and a mixup on my credits I ended up losing (the scholarship), so I went the juco route.”
Stone tried to get back to Washington again before going to Santa Monica College, a two-year junior college, but the Huskies weren’t able to get past the technicalities either.
Stone redshirted his first year at Santa Monica and then played this past season as a redshirt freshman. “I didn’t want to use up too much eligibility at a juco,” he said.
Because of that decision, Stone will have three years to play three at Washington starting this fall. That fact definitely played a part in piquing UW’s interest.
“It was definitely significant, especially considering I only played one season,” said Stone. “So the coaches were like, he’s only got one season of film, but he’s got three years to play and he can come in early, so it helped a lot in terms of being recruited. Often times when they are looking at juco guys, they are looking for guys that can come in early and help right away. The fact that I’m able to come in and get my hands on the playbook and learn and study before fall ball provides me a substantial advantage to a lot of the guys that have to wait a little bit longer."
During the whole process, Stone never stopped thinking about the Huskies.
“That whole first year I was keeping in contact, but there really wasn’t much they could do with me because I hadn’t received my AA yet and I didn’t have any film because I hadn’t played yet,” said Stone. “The following season, I received my AA early; that’s why I’m able to enroll in spring. I also have a whole year’s worth of film now.”
And that’s when UW got interested again.
“Coach Lake reached out to me. I’ve been in contact with him and he told me he wants me to be a Dawg and I’m one of the only JC guys they are really talking to right now or looking at. It kind of progressed, talking with Coach Lake and Justin Glenn. All along I kind of knew where my heart was at; I just didn’t know how it would all unfold.”
It wasn’t a given Stone would go to Washington if admitted.
“Any time you’re offered a full ride it’s hard to turn down, but it’s not really where my heart was at,” he said. “I knew where I wanted to be and I did a lot of thinking. It’s not like I didn’t consider the other scholarships. But I thought I’d try my hand at accomplishing what I set out to do since I was fifth or sixth grade.
“(UNC) have everything, but I’m just a hometown guy and the opportunity to play here is what won out.”
Stone has a few connections with the Washington program. He grew up in Bellevue and was around a lot of future Wolverine football players - even though he never played a down for BHS. So he is very familiar with guys like Budda Baker, Shane Bowman, Jake Eldrenkamp, Michael Kneip, and others.
“I know a lot of those guys pretty well,” he said. “Budda (Baker), Chico (McClatcher), Myles Gaskin, David Ajamu - numerous guys. My last year of middle school I moved up north. I grew up with a lot of those guys from those Bellevue teams. That’s how I knew everybody there. I kept in contact with them even when I moved away.
“Budda said he thinks I can come in and contribute and play at that level. That’s someone whose words hold value to me. He’s a good dude.”
Danny Razore, long-time assistant for Bellevue High School, has been a family friend to Mason for years. He sees nothing but untapped potential.
“UW is getting far more than just a football player,” said Razore Tuesday via text. “Mason is one of the few young men I‘ve known who had fully embraced his development as a person. Mason has developed, and continues to develop, mental and physical skills that will make him a valuable, consistently growing asset for UW’s football team both on and off the field.”
One recent friendship has turned into something more for Stone - an apprenticeship. His mentor? Former UW safety Brian Clay. Clay, who recently graduated after playing for the Huskies in 2015, is busy preparing for Washington’s Pro Day and a possible future as a professional football player.
Clay is using a sports counselor to get his mind right during his preparation. His counselor just happens to be Craig Stone, Mason’s father.
“He’s a guy I really want to emulate when I get to Washington,” Mason said of Clay. “That’s why his advice is so meaningful. He’s gone through it already. He’s been giving me a lot of advice. He’s been really helpful giving me some insight of what I’m walking into and how to approach it.
“Brian is a guy whose situation is relatively similar to mine. He was a walk-on initially when he got there but he’s a stud and he worked his butt off. He just explained how you have to have that Dawg in you. Whatever they give you - whatever the workload is - you’ve got take it on one step at a time. When you do that they’ll give you more. You earn your stripes and you get your shot. And when you get your shot you have to capitalize on it. He told me to not let anybody knock your hustle, just keep going as hard as you can and not worry about what other people are saying. Just take care of your business and worry about what’s within your control.”
Where will Stone start out his UW career? “I’m not sure specifically where, but the defensive backfield somewhere,” he said. “Corner, safety, nickel - whatever it is.”
“He has the range and ball skills to play the deep post effectively while also having the length, discipline and feet needed to play man-to-man on the slot,” said Razore.
“Something I pride myself on is my meticulous preparation,” Stone added. “I feel like playing the game is the easy part; if my preparation leading up to that is what separates guys, and I like to believe I’m someone that puts a lot of effort into that. I’d like to believe I read the field really well; I find the quickest route to the football and when I get there I do my best to make the play. I don’t tend to miss a lot of tackles and I pride myself on that as well.”
Stone graduated from Santa Monica College in December. He’s currently working out with Tracy Ford and Ford Sports Performance. “I got back, took a little bit to see my family and everything - it’s been a long time since I got a chance to spend some quality time with them - and then just got right back to work,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym with Tracy.”
Any words for Washington fans?
“I’m excited to get there, bleed purple and gold, and get to work,” Stone said.
“Best walk-on UW could have asked for,” Razore added. “Similar to Brian Clay. He’ll be an asset from Day One even if he isn’t playing every down.”