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A Closer Look: Marcus Mason

Posted Jun 23, 2010

Road-weary running back wants to unpack his bags, stay in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO – If you’re a Chargers fan that doubles as the mystical type, you likely will spot a good omen for Ryan Mathews.

That would be Marcus Mason’s inclusion on the roster.

Although there’s no logical explanation, Mason’s presence has meant Pro Bowls for running backs across the NFL.

His brief and scattered career has generated an impressive list of teammates: Clinton Portis with the Redskins. Leon Washington and Thomas Jones with the Jets. Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain with the Ravens.

All six have made the Pro Bowl. McClain, a fullback, became Baltimore’s primary ball carrier partway into 2008 and rushed for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns. Mason watched that develop from the Ravens practice squad.

“Hopefully they see that it’s just a numbers game,” Mason said. “I’m just being overshadowed by these great players and just trying to find the right spot.”

San Diego is Mason’s fourth NFL franchise since he graduated from Youngstown State in 2007. He made the 53-man roster with the Washington Redskins in 2007 but got moved to the practice squad. The Redskins released him during final cuts the next year after he led the NFL in rushing during the 2008 preseason with 317 yards, almost 100 more than second-best Rashard Mendenhall of Pittsburgh.

He’s ricocheted like a racquetball in a miniature room since. The Jets signed him to their active roster from the Ravens practice squad. He’s been released and re-signed four times since.

At 26 years old, he’s floated around the league more than some players do in their careers, but never too far from his native Maryland. Now he’s across the country in Southern California for an opportunity that isn’t guaranteed.

“Any further (away) and it would be China,” Mason joked of San Diego.

So what makes him continue his quest, which has resulted in 38 total touches in the NFL for a combined 185 yards?

“You can’t think about it too much, because if you do, you start wondering. I left school in ’07 and it’s about to be 2011. I haven’t been getting much playing time, but at the same time, I love the game,” Mason said. “Eventually something’s going to happen. It happens to everybody. Priest Holmes went through it. Ryan Grant went through it. And eventually you get your break.”

The 5-foot-9, 226-pound back is a straight-ahead runner that welcomes contact. He started as a 6-year-old offensive lineman until his Pee Wee football team discovered his lineage.

His uncle, Mark Mason, was revered as a “superback” at the University of Maryland in the ’90s and earned a preseason roster spot with the Dallas Cowboys after their second straight Super Bowl in January 1994.

His nephew inherited the genes.

“I was pretty awesome,” Mason remembers. “I scored almost every time I touched the ball. It was a good feeling.”

His self-assessment: He runs with his eyes, rarely loses a yard and keeps his team’s defense off the field.

It’s a sales pitch that’s caught the attention of several NFL teams. Now he wants to convince one they should keep him around.

“My next goal is to be playing, constantly playing. To be a part of a team, not just help on the scout team,” he said. “I want to be a part. I want to hear the commentators say my name. That’s my next goal.”

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