Hutson Mason is a star.
Forget that football stuff. The dude’s on television.
Mason, the Lassiter High quarterback who made headlines this past weekend for breaking the all-time Georgia record for passing yards in a single season (3,714), also plays a quarterback on TV. But he’s not acting.
Mason is one of eight high school quarterbacks from across the country that were selected to compete on “The Ride,” a sports reality show that is currently airing on Comcast Sports and Fox Sports Net affiliates across the U.S. Episode Three of 10 aired last night on CSS. You’ll have to call your local cable provider or satellite company for the exact channel.
Loosely patterned after the CBS hit show “Survivor” and other reality shows of that ilk, the eight quarterbacks were selected by recruiting experts based on their distinction as “under-the-radar” college prospects. Last summer, they were put through the paces at a Football Univeristy (FBU) camp in Philadephia by quarterback gurus Tom Martinez, (Tom Brady’s personal instructor), former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski and former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche. Then they were subjected to the behind-closed-doors critiquing of a panel of recruiting experts (including former UGA administrative assistant Barry Every, who’s now an evaluator for Rivals.com).
Each week the panel casts off quarterbacks by process of elimination until only one is left. But instead of getting $1 million like on Survivor, the grand prize on this show is a spot on the roster of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a national high school all-star showcase that will be played on Jan. 9 in San Antonio.
It wasn’t something for which Mason auditioned. In fact, he pretty much stumbled into it.
“I went to FBU, Football University, down in Stockbridge last summer,” Mason told me Monday. “When I went there, a lady came up to me and told me that she wanted to do an interview with me. She pulled me into a room by myself and she interviewed me with about 30 to 40 questions that were really in depth; things like, ‘what is the biggest thing you’ve had to overcome in life,’ stuff like that. They did 100 of those across the country and they eliminated it down to eight people. The eight that made it made it onto the TV show. So the eight of us flew to Philadephia and that is where we first started shooting it.”
That was last July. The first show aired only two weeks ago and, as of this writing, Mason is still “alive.” Try though I did, he won’t tell me how far he made it.
“It’s based on how you did in the camp but I can’t tell you how I did because I could get in a lot of trouble,” Mason said with a laugh. “The director of the show called me the night before it came on and said, ‘Make sure you don’t say anything; remember, you signed a contract.’”
Even though he knows how it turned out, Mason and his family eagerly tune in each week to find out what the coaches said behind the scenes.
“It’s like Survivor that way,” he said. “It’s real interesting to watch because I don’t know what the coaches say about me. So it’s when I get to watch the TV show that I get to hear what they really thought my strengths and weaknesses were.”
In the meantime, Mason is playing another elimination game — the one they call the Georgia High School Association state playoffs. And so far he’s 1-for-1. Thanks in large part to Mason’s 445 yards passing and 7 TDs, the Region 6-AAAAA champion Trojans (11-0) advanced to the second round with a 62-37 win over North Forsyth. They’ll face South Gwinnett on Friday.
As for Mason’s recruitment, despite holding the state’s all-time passing record and leading an undefeated team deep into the state playoffs, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior still has not received a scholarship offer from a BCS school. Central Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Florida Atlantic are the latest to come forth with tenders of grant-in-aid. But Virginia, which will have coaches at Friday’s game, and Mississippi State seem right on the verge.
Mason is skeptical that his impromptu TV career will generate any more interest than there is.
“I don’t know that college coaches even have time to sit down and watch it,” he said. “The whole point of the TV show is to get a college scholarship. . . . but I don’t really know if the show in itself will get a kid a scholarship. Because if a kid can’t play on Friday nights, then college coaches are not going to offer him just because he’s on a TV show.
“I think the TV show will help me publicity wise. But I don’t think it’s going to help me get another scholarship offer.”
I’ll have another detailed report later this week on Mason’s current scholarship options to this point, which really are getting better all the time.
As for the show itself, “Dancing with the Stars” and “Big Brother” are probably safe. But you recruitniks out there are in for a real treat!