Starting over again

Published 4:28 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

King’s Fork alum Mike Mason is redshirting for his first year with Old Dominion’s football team, but just like he was in on the ground floor when the Bulldog football program was in its first steps, he is and will be a part of ODU’s growth on the gridiron.

Even in the Monarchs’ first year, it’s already a record-setting year. With one game left, next Saturday at the Virginia Military Institute, the Monarchs are 8-2 and have the NCAA’s all-time record for wins in a program’s first season.

“Coach (Bobby Wilder) didn’t say anything about it until after our seventh win. Then he told us we had tied the record,” said Mason, “but he didn’t make a big deal about it, and no one really did, until after we did it. Coach made a nice little speech about the record and about other first-year teams,” said Mason.

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ODU clinched the record last Saturday with a 42-28 win in Norfolk against North Carolina Central. It was the fifth straight win for the Monarchs and ODU finishes its first campaign in the new Foreman Field with a 6-1 home record.

“It’s been absolutely amazing, to have 20,000 people come out there every week. We know what to expect every time we step on the field,” said Mason.

Mason, a defensive back, has dressed for home games, but hasn’t seen any action.

“Right now, we haven’t been getting a lot of the reps. The guys who are playing are getting all the reps,” said Mason about the role the redshirted freshmen are playing now.

“We work a lot on the scout team and a lot of practice on special teams,” said Mason, who was a receiver, defensive back and kick and punt returner during his career at King’s Fork.

“I’ve had time to have my mind and body become more mature,” said Mason.

The redshirt year has been a big positive, Mason said, as he knows much more about ODU’s defensive system and the step up from high school to collegiate football.

“When I first got here, it was very overwhelming. It seemed every play had so many different calls, but once you get the base calls right, everything else is really just minor adjustments,” said Mason.

Going to the brand-new facilities at Old Dominion helps, too.

“I’ve been to a lot of places and, by far, this is in the top category of all Division I-AA programs. We’re really living a dream over here. Everything you can think of, it’s taken care of,” said Mason.

“We have a great weight room, excellent locker rooms and the team rooms are great,” said Mason.

ODU’s Powhatan Sports Complex has a main team meeting room with four HD projection video screens. The practice complex has meeting rooms for each position with more HD televisions and state of the art video equipment. Outside the complex are two practice fields.

The season hasn’t been a perfectly smooth ride though. After starting 3-0, the Monarchs dropped back-to-back close games: 31-28 at home vs. Monmouth and 34-29 at Fordham. ODU rebounded back in Norfolk with a 34-16 win over Presbyterian. In the five-game winning streak, all five winning margins have been by more than a possession.

“It was all about sticking together, believing our system and believing in coach Wilder,” said Mason.

“(Wilder) said, ‘sometimes you’re going to get punched in the mouth,’ said Mason. “But it’s all in how you come back and ever since then, we’ve been on a roll.”

The Monarchs have the opportunity to keep that roll going through the season finale, against in-state rival, or at least presumed rival looking well down the road, VMI.

“Everyone’s working to have a good end to the season and have that much more to build off of through the offseason,” said Mason.