Phillip Marshall: Auburn's Mason is in elite company

Dec. 26, 2013

AUBURN, Ala. - It's not an easy thing to do for an Auburn running back, but Tre Mason has done it. He has put himself in elite company.

At a school that has produced great running backs for decades, only one has had a better season than Mason has had in 2013. And with the BCS National Championship Game still to be played, he's not finished yet.

Mason has rushed 283 times for 1,621 yards. That's only 165 yards shy of Bo Jackson's all-time record of 1,786 yards, established in 1985. Along the way, he has passed the likes of Brent Fullwood, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Ben Tate, Kenny Irons, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Rudy Johnson and Cam Newton. You get the point.

Mason has scored 22 rushing touchdowns, more than anybody in Auburn history. He has shattered the Auburn record for all-purpose yards with 2,147. That is 288 yards more than Jackson's previous record of 1,859. Mason's 304 rushing yards against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game was three yards shy of the school record and the most ever against an SEC opponent.

The nation finally paid attention after the SEC Championship Game, and Mason became a Heisman Trophy finalist.

All of that bodes well for Mason's future. The backs who produced the top 10 single seasons in Auburn history all played or are playing in the NFL. Whether Mason decides to move on to playing on Sundays or come back and make a run at the Heisman Trophy remains to be seen. But, for now, he has one more test in his season of dreams.

It's the BCS National Championship Game. It's Florida State. It's the Rose Bowl. And it doesn't get any bigger than that.

On the field, Mason is a dynamic runner who attacks defenses with ferocious effort to go along with big-time speed. He's run through and outrun some of the top defensive players in the SEC. Off the field, he's quick with a smile and quick with credit for others.


 

 

Here's how he explains Auburn's running game:

"We don't really care what defense they put in front of us. We have to make the play. Those guys are going to scheme some up and try to find a way to stop us. Our o-line is going to identify it and find a way to block them. I'm going to find a way to get through there and get to the second level."

Before the fourth game of this season, when he ran for 132 yards in a 35-21 loss at LSU, Mason was widely viewed as a good but not great running back. Since then, he's been as close to unstoppable as a running back can be. He ran for 164 yards on Alabama, which had given up that many yards to an entire team only once. And then he shredded Missouri like no SEC team has ever been shredded.

It should have been obvious all along that Mason was something special. He broke the 1,000-yard barrier on Auburn's dreadful 2012 team.

Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1985 and became one of the more famous athletes in the history of American sports, was on the sideline as Mason ran wild against Missouri.

"He told me `You are probably one of the best players that ever put on an Auburn helmet,'" Mason said. "He was thanking me for being here and I was thanking him for being a mentor to me. It's a blessing hearing that from him. All that he's done for Auburn, to be put in the same sentence or conversation with him is amazing to me."

Mason will run on Jan. 6 against one of the top defenses in college football. Containing him will be a focal point of the Seminoles' mission. Can they do it? Maybe, but since Auburn coaches made the decision that Mason was their guy, no one else has.

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: