Mason overcomes late obstacle to play for Missouri football

South Alabama elected to pull Dimetrios Mason’s offer with two days until National Signing Day due to their signing of a linebacker who had been previously committed to the University of Alabama.
Missouri Tigers senior wide receiver Dimetrios Mason (9) catches a pass Aug. 10, 2016, at the Kadlec Practice Field in Columbia, Mo. ALEC LEWIS/SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Kenyatta Watson vividly remembers his phone buzzing during a meal back in February.

While eating at a local Chick-Fil-A in Loganville, Georgia, the town that houses Grayson High School, Watson — Grayson’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator last year — picked up the phone to find wide receiver Dimetrios Mason “in complete panic” on the other end.

Just two days prior to the call and a week ahead of National Signing Day, Mason had committed to the University of South Alabama to play for coach Joey Jones. After signing a linebacker that had been previously committed to the University of Alabama, South Alabama elected to pull Mason’s offer.

“At first, I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’” Watson said in a phone interview with The Maneater on Thursday. “It was more shock than anything.”

Mason didn’t understand it. Neither did Watson, although he did admit there were some questions about whether the receiver would qualify academically. Regardless, Watson, who has helped more than 90 players earn college scholarships and now owns Watson College Consulting, said he “had to hold the pieces together,” which began by talking with Missouri football staffer Ryan Walters.

Watson had spoken with Walters throughout Mason’s entire recruiting process, and interest was again sparked in a conversation about the receiver.

“I kept telling Ryan, this kid is going to qualify,” Watson said. “I asked if he had spots available and he said ‘yeah.’ I sent him the film and he said he was going to get with the coaches and call me back.”

“When he called me back, Walters said, ‘Watson, you’ve been a fair judge of talent and there’s some guys you told me not to touch but you’ve always been on this kid.’ I was like, ‘coach, I promise you man, if you sign this kid, you will not be disappointed.’ Four hours later, he emailed me the national letter of intent and here we are today.”

As Mason ran in a jersey with gold hints and red-tipped dreadlocks swinging beneath his helmet at practice with the Missouri football team on Friday, the 5-foot-10 speedster looked reminiscent of The Flash, though his teammates prefer the nickname “K–9.”

Why? Because, as the freshman wide receiver, puts it, “I'm a dog, and dog spelled backward is God, and that's who I play for.” In hearing that, Kenyatta Watson isn’t surprised. After everything the wide receiver has been through, Watson uses Mason’s story as an example.

“Good things happen to good people and Dimetrios is the consummate example because he worked so hard, never gave up and never lost faith,” Watson said. “We talked about things he needed to qualify and I talked to Ryan [Walters] the other day. He said ‘you told me, and golly.’”

Through 16 days of fall camp, Mason’s nickname has emerged as this year’s most talked about. But so too has his play, which has also garnered considerable attention.

Senior linebacker Michael Scherer said “he’s just a playmaker.” Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock said “it almost feels like you should be watching him in the Olympics.” Even graduate transfer Chris Black, who at Mason’s age was coming into college as one of the top wide receivers in the country, said Mason reminds him of himself.

Hear the bells of the hype train ringing? Missouri coach Barry Odom did, so he decided to pump the brakes, saying he wasn’t yet ready to build a statue. Wide receivers coach Andy Hill did too, but said that the guy who claims to run a 4.3 forty-yard dash “has been a difference guy since day one.”

“He’s done some nice things, but still, as a freshman, there’s a lot to learn,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of stuff in the slot that is going to happen a lot faster because people are right in your face, so there is a learning curve there.”

For many, including Mason himself, that learning curve wasn’t scheduled to take place in Columbia, Missouri. Watson now calls it “a blessing,” and as that curve continues, Watson believes the receiver will have a chance to play on Sundays in the NFL.

“The kid has had a tough life and he’s had every reason to be a menace to society,” Watson said. “He could’ve been angry at the world, he could’ve turned into anything, but he turned everything to a positive and there’s no kid out there that can’t use Dimetrios as an example.”

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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