True freshman Mason Fine taking the reins at quarterback
A little over a year ago, freshman Mason Fine was torching opposing high schools under the Friday night lights for the Locust Grove High School in Oklahoma.
The quarterback caught the attention of many in his hometown, but he couldn’t catch the attention of many Football Bowl Subdivision scouts. Fine held just two preferred walk-on offers at Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University, and a handful of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics offers, despite being the two-time Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year.
“The recruiting process was slow, to be honest with you,” Fine said.
What the recruiting process needed was a spark, and it got one when Seth Littrell was hired as head coach in December.
The reason? Fine’s head coach at Locust Grove, Matt Hennessy had an “in” with Littrell.
So Hennessy made a phone call to his longtime friend, who was now roughly four hours south in Denton. The two first met when Littrell was a hard-nosed fullback playing football at Muskogee High School, and Hennessey was on the opposing sideline as a coach.
Hennessey knew he could help two friends at once just by picking up the phone.
“I’ve known Seth forever,” Hennessey said. “As soon as he got the [North Texas job] I called him. I told him, ‘I’ve got a kid you have to look at.’ We watched every play of every game on film and he said, ‘why has nobody offered him?’ I told him because Mason is 5’11.”
Now, Fine is the starting quarterback at North Texas, and his high school coach was able to watch his first collegiate start.
It was a special moment for the two who talk almost daily.
“It meant a lot for him to see that,” Fine said. “We kind of started it together at Locust Grove and built a really good program down there. When a whole lot of people didn’t believe in me, he stood there and believed in me. Sometimes he has more confidence in me than I do in myself.”
Fine made his coaches confident in him by throwing for 13,081 yards in high school — the eighth most yards in high school football history. He added 166 touchdowns, good for fifth in high school football history.
But his sparkling resume was diminished by his size. Fine checks in at just 5’11, 170 pounds.
His hard work is what set him apart. Fine knew he wanted to play football when he was in fourth grade.
“I thought it would be really cool to be on TV playing football,” Fine said. “I set my mind to it and my dad asked me if it was something I really wanted to do.”
The dream was set in motion once Fine and his father started attending camps. Fine never had a quarterback coach growing up. Instead, his father acted as one to the best of his ability and was adamant on teaching his son the proper way to play the game.
“We started going to camps and I tried soak in everything,” Fine said. “My dad would go back and write down what they taught me. My parents didn’t play high school sports, so this was their first go around. There were some nights when I would come in the house crying because I wanted to have fun throwing the football but he would make me stick to the fundamentals. It’s a great feeling once you accomplish that dream.”
Fine came to North Texas, in his mind, to compete for the starting job, which he has now won.
Just three short weeks ago, however, it looked as though Fine may be redshirted.
In the fourth quarter of the Mean Green’s season opener against Southern Methodist University, Littrell put Fine under center, and he’s been there ever since. He led the only scoring drive of the second half.
Littrell has called Fine a special player and knows he needs playing time to reach his full potential.
“He’s just got it,” Littrell said of Fine. “He doesn’t get rattled and is extremely smart. He is a 4.0 student and understands the system. He has that presence about him. Guys look to him and follow him.”
It’s nothing new for Fine to be praised for his presence when he is on the field. Hennessey said one of the most impressive things about the youngster is his intangibles.
“He’s one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever been around,” Hennessy said. “He’ll stand in there and take a hit.”
In a day and age where quarterbacks are protected in games and wear red jerseys in practice to avoid getting hit, Fine does not fit that mold. This past Saturday against the University of Florida, Fine was sacked seven times but continued to get up.
Fine is not one to shy away from contact.
“He got mad in practice when he was running [the] scout team,” Hennessy said. “He went and tried to run over one of our linebackers to get a first down. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
Even though Fine is the first true freshman to start at quarterback for North Texas since Giovanni Vizza in 2007, he confidently navigates the offense. On a team that used three different quarterbacks last year, Fine presents a solution to the recent quarterback woes.
And represents the future of the Mean Green.
“North Texas has all the tools to turn around a program,” Fine said. “Now you just [have] to put it in place and go with it. Things are going better than I thought they ever could.”
Featured Image: Mason Fine poses for a photo after a brutal practice due to the loss to Florida. Fine is the starting quarterback for the Mean Green football team and will be starting against Rice this Saturday. Colin Mitchell
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