Roughly 36 hours before signing day last February, South Alabama decided Dimetrios Mason no longer fit into its plans.
It turned out to be a stroke of good fortune for Missouri.
Central Michigan, Alabama-Birmingham and Indiana also expressed interest when Mason became available again, but he committed on the spot when Tigers co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Ryan Walters called to offer a scholarship.
“I was scared at the beginning, but I’ve just got a lot of faith,” Mason said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
As it turns out, the Jaguars pulling his scholarship might have been the best thing for Mason, who played his senior season at Grayson High in Loganville, Ga.
“Coach Walters showed a lot of faith in me,” Mason said. “My coaches at school (especially wide receivers coach Kenyatta Watson) told him I was a good student and player, so he took a chance on me.”
It’s a chance that is paying handsome dividends early in camp for Mizzou.
If there was an award for generating buzz in fall camp, Mason would win the Tigers’ award this season by a landslide.
Players and coaches raved about Mason’s two-touchdown performance Saturday in the Missouri’s first scrimmage of fall camp, but they weren’t shocked already having witnessed it every day in practice.
“He’s fun to watch,” sophomore quarterback Drew Lock said. “Sometimes, when he takes reps with (sophomore quarterbacks) Marv (Zanders) or Jack (Lowary), we’ll see a play and I’ll look over at (new offensive coordinator Josh) Heupel and he’ll be looking at me at the same time, like, ‘What the heck is going on with this kid?’ ”
Mason played cornerback, wide receiver and returned kickoffs at Grayson after transferring from George Walton Academy in Monroe, Ga., and displayed an incredible nose for end zone.
Last season he scored special-teams touchdowns as a kick returner, on defense off an interception, notched a rushing touchdown on a jet sweep and also hauled in a few receiving touchdowns.
Bringing that point-producing ability to field for Mizzou is Mason’s primary objective.
“Every chance I get, I’m going to try to make the big play,” Mason said. “I don’t really think about the negative. I just think about scoring all the time. I feel like, in our offense, I could score at any point in time.”
Mason, who is also working as a punt and kick returner, started at cornerback when he arrived at Mizzou, but a few weeks later he was moved to wide receiver and has really turned heads.
“It came down to an arm-wrestling match, and Heupel beat Walters,” first-year Tigers coach Barry Odom joked.
Truth be told, Missouri simply needs more dynamic playmakers on offense and there was a hope Mason — red-tipped dreadlocks and all — might fit the bill.
“We saw a talent there with the ball in his hands,” wide receivers coach Andy Hill said. “We watched him and, at the time, we were looking for some guys to develop. We knew we had some speed and looked good with the ball in his hands in his high school video, so all the guys on offense pushed for it. Not many guys come out as a freshman like he has. He’s got a special gear.”
Mason sat out his junior season in high school, and that lost season is a big reason Mason and his blazing speed — he said he runs a 4.38-second 40-yard dash — flew under the radar during recruiting.
Out on the Kadlec Athletic Fields, where Missouri practices most days, he’s no longer under the radar.
“He flies,” Lock said. “You almost think you should see him on the TV in the Olympics, turning corners in the 400 (meters) or whatnot. The dude can run, so that’s exciting to see.”
More than a special gear, Mason’s also got a special nickname, “K9,” which has precious little to do with his jersey number (though he does wear No. 9, once popularized by Chiefs star Jeremy Maclin).
“It’s because I’m a dog,” Mason said. “I’m a dog when I get on the field.”