Mark Mason never sought the spotlight.
Not as a standout football and basketball player at now-defunct Charleston High School. Not as a seek-and-destroy defensive end at Marshall University. And not as an assistant coach at Capital High School for 20 years.
I have known and written about Mason for 30-some years during his years of playing and coaching football, and one thing always has been a constant.
I mean, besides his 200-watt smile.
The constant is Mason always has done his job, always has known his role and always has expected nothing in return.
It wasn’t for him. It wasn’t his way. It was outside his comfort zone.
That’s why it was somewhat surprising when Mason agreed to become Capital High School’s new head football coach. So was this a lifelong dream? A long-term goal? A fondest desire?
“Um, not necessarily,” said the 52-year-old Mason with a chuckle. “I thought about it. I really, truly was enjoying just being around the kids and able to have the opportunity to coach and to help a lot of kids find their way through sports and life to try to make something out of themselves.
“That was my primary goal — to show kids where I grew up in the housing projects — Washington Manor — where I played sports and had the opportunity and chance to excel in basketball and football. I just want to show the other kids that you can make it, by playing football and basketball.”
That’s why Mason embraced his role as an assistant coach for the Cougars.
“I’ve been doing it for a very long time,” he said. “Actually, 20 years. I loved coaching football as an assistant. I think it’s a good thing. I enjoyed being around the game, the kids ... just the football atmosphere.”
Prior to those years, Mason excelled as a hard-nosed defensive end at Marshall, playing for coach Jim Donnan from 1989 to 1991. That’s where Mason excelled at defending the option, rocking running backs and quarterbacks alike who dared to try running the ball against him.
“It took a lot of great practice,” said Mason. “We had prepped all week against The Citadel and Georgia Southern and all of those teams that were option teams. It was all about every man doing his job and being responsible.
“I just enjoyed the fellowship and being around the team and cutting up and just having a great time. We get together every now and then, us old guys, and reminisce on all the things that we did back in our Marshall days.
“They’re really good. I have no regrets about my days at Marshall. I really enjoyed them. It actually really made me grow up and to be a man. It helped me to get myself in line to make it in life.”
Still, Mason didn’t believe that line would lead to becoming Capital’s head football coach.
“I don’t know how that happened, but we’re here,” he said with a chuckle. “I really actually ... Coach Carpenter [previous head coach Jon Carpenter] had a conversation with me, but I really wasn’t buying into what he was selling.
“I really enjoyed being an assistant. Being an assistant you just do what you’re asked to do. I really enjoyed that. So, when the opportunity came and I was asked and took the challenge, I realized that, wow, it truly is different being the person in charge.
“There’s a lot of responsibilities. I had great people around me ... great coaches around me that helped make this team work and move. There is no way I could do it without them.”
Mason is experiencing these new responsibilities already. Since Capital has been on remote learning this week due to COVID concerns, the Cougars’ season-opening game against Parkersburg South scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at University of Charleston Stadium has been postponed.
A decision is supposed to be made on Sunday evening whether or not the game will be played at 7 p.m. Monday at the Erickson All-Sports Facility in Parkersburg.
Not exactly the kind of start any first-year head coach would want, huh? But Mason isn’t just any new head coach. What has defined Mason for all these years that I have known him is he always has met challenges head-on.
“I try to my best at that and put my best foot forward,” he said. “You might get knocked down, but you’ve just got to get back and keep going.”
Guess who does most of the knocking down.
It’s Mark Mason.
The spotlight finally has found him.