Lassiter quarterback Hutson Mason on Tuesday night finally told the world what he’d told Georgia coaches six days ago.
“I’m going to be spending the next four years of my life in Athens,” the record-setting signal caller said. “I’m a Dog, baby!”
Mason finally shared the news of his commitment to the Bulldogs — he chose them over Clemson and Mississippi State — Tuesday night on the cable television show “In the Huddle,” which aired on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS). The show was actually videotaped at the CSS studios in Norcross last Thursday afternoon. Mason informed the Bulldogs’ coaches the night before that.
He unveiled the news to me last Thursday night, but under the agreement that I not report it until the show aired. And that’s what we did.
“I even told some family members they’d have to watch the show,” Mason said with a laugh.
All the planning and secrecy was old hat for Mason. He was one of the quarterbacks selected to participate in the newfangled sports TV reality series “The Ride,” which was taped last summer but didn’t air until late this fall. Mason was voted off early in that elimination-by-panel-of-judges competition and had to keep the results under wraps for months.
Now Mason appears like the big winner. He set the state passing record with 4,560 yards and 54 touchdowns while leading Lassiter to a 13-1 record this past season, which helped generate a bevy of scholarship offers. In addition to his three finalists Mason had offers from Florida State, Virginia and Cincinnati along with about 10 mid-major college football programs.
It was an especially impressive list considering Mason began the season not knowing if he would land even one FBS (Division I) offer.
“It feels good, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “Because, at the beginning of the season, you had all those people that comment on the AJC blog and in the chatrooms saying I’d never get an SEC offer. I read them all the time and I used it as motivation. When you hear that you can’t do something over and over, it kind of motivates you to prove them wrong. I don’t have the arm to play in the SEC or the size or the mobility, all those naysayers. It just goes to show you don’t listen to what people say and believe in yourself.”
Or, in this case, you listen to them and prove them wrong.
Mason certainly made believers out of the Bulldogs, who initially had not planned to take a quarterback in the 2010 class. But they were fully aware of Mason and his abilities.
Mason went to Georgia’s camp this past summer and that’s when offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo first took an interest in him.
“I really lit it up in front of Coach Bobo,” Mason recalled. “I did very, very well that day. I was on, I can tell you that. That was probably one of my best camps throwing-wise I’ve ever had. My arm felt good, my timing was right and everything was on rhthym. That really impressed Bobo. He was just so shocked about the improvement I had made. And I was doing it all under center. Everybody said I was a system guy that could only play out of the shotgun and I can’t take five steps, but this was under center.”
At the end of the camp, Mason sat down with Bobo.
“He said, ‘Look, I’m really impressed, but we’re not going to take a quarterback in this class right now. Something might happen and that could change. So you just take care of what you can take care of and go out there and have the best season you can and maybe something will happen.’
“I didn’t talk to him for maybe four months after that. Then all of the sudden, something happened. I had a really good year and it’s history from there really.”
Unlike most people in these parts, Mason didn’t have any direct connections to UGA. His parents both grew up out of state and attended other colleges. So he didn’t grow up dreaming of being a Bulldog.
But Mason has long dreamed of playing quarterback on the highest level possible. And it was that that attracted him to Georgia.
“The best comment that I ever heard was what [Detroit Lions coach] Jim Schwartz said about Matthew Stafford,” Mason said. “He said he was the most prepared rookie he had ever seen in his 30 years of coaching. He came in and ran an NFL offense right out of college with no problem. That says much about Mike Bobo and how he can develop quarterbacks as it does about Stafford.”
Georgia currently has three quarterbacks on its roster. He comes in behind rising junior Logan Gray and redshirt freshmen Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray. The initial plans are for Mason to redshirt his first season. But nothing is certain.
“If Logan Gray moves to receiver [as has been discussed], then I come in as the No. 3 quarterback behind Mettenberger and Murray,” Mason said. “Then you never know what could happen as far as injury. If somebody goes down then I’m the second guy and I’d have to be ready to go. I think Coach Bobo plans on redshirting me and I plan on redshirting but I wouldn’t say that’d be 100 percent.”
In any case, Mason said he’s thrilled with his decision and declared his recruitment closed.
“I feel like in Coach Richt I’m not only playing for the best coach in America but a coach who genuinely cares about young men in general,” he said. “Educational wise, an institution like Georgia, an in-home institution, when I graduate there with a major in communications, I think it will be a big asset for me when I go into the business world. It should create immense opportunities for jobs being a football player from Georgia with a degree from Georgia. Then there’s the talent I’m going to have around me, guys like Alec Ogletree and Da’Rick Rogers and Kolton Houston and Brent Benedict. They’re some of the best guys in the country, and there are some many of them. You just think, ‘Shoot, they can make me better.’ That went into it, too.
“I just think it’s a good fit.”
And that, he said, is no secret.