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Lineman on track to crack NCAA roster
Mason Woods stands out as a big guy on a football field. At a practice with the kids of the Golden Ears Track and Field club, he’s an absolute spectacle.
The 6’9”, 335-lb. lineman sprints down the track, like a Clydesdale racing thoroughbreds, some kids barely up to his waist.
But he’s not there to win races, just to get faster, and ultimately win a starting spot in an NCAA lineup.
“There was a lot I was doing wrong,” says the affable giant. “I didn’t realize running was so intricate.”
His knees are higher, his arms are pumping, other changes in his stride are happening, and he has dropped a couple of points off his 40-metre sprint.
He’ll never line up at running back, but he’s confident the increased speed is going to pay dividends.
“You can apply running to everything we do,” he said.
Woods went to school at Maple Ridge secondary for Grades 8-9, but he wasn’t a football star yet.
“I had more of a basketball drive back then,” he said.
But as he grew, and discovered football, Woods wanted to be part of a gridiron program, and got the opportunity to play for the always-tough Terry Fox Ravens in Port Coquitlam for Grades 11 and 12.
“They have a long legacy of great teams.”
He played on both sides of the ball, and was part of an outstanding defence. His first year there, Fox lost the provincial championship game to Vancouver College. His Grade 12 year was with a younger team that did not get that far in the playoffs. He was the team captain, and finished the season with 30 tackles and eight sacks.
His big success was a full-ride NCAA scholarship with the Idaho Vandals.
They flew him out to Moscow, Idaho for an official visit in February of his graduating year. He met the players and saw an opportunity to jump into a building program.
“I wanted to be part of the change coming up,” he said.
Last year he red-shirted, which meant a lot of practising and weight training, but no playing time.
He takes it in stride, knowing he is a teenager up against men 23 and 24 years old, who have been working on their games longer than him. Even this year he may not get an opportunity to play.
“In high school, you can get away with just being big or just being strong,” he said.
He has a lot to learn about football, lining up opposite American kids who have been playing the game since they were five or six years old. Things he has to remember are automatic to them.
“You don’t realize how much thinking goes into football,” he said.
Then there are all the little tricks that a lineman has to know to give himself an edge — like footwork, head placement, the angle their knees should be bent to. Now when he watches pro football, he doesn’t watch the ball as much as he watches the linemen — the battle in the trenches.
There’s a lot to learn, but he’s soaking it in.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s a great experience.”
On a typical school day, Woods does class for four hours, followed by an hour and a half in the gym, about an hour of film, practise for two or three more hours, ending with about another hour in the film room.
“My goal this year is to make the travel squad, and get my list numbers up,” he said.
He is bench pressing about 330 pounds — which is a very respectable number for the longest arms on the team — squatting 350 pounds, and does power cleans (from the ground to neck level) with 260 pounds.
He has gotten faster this summer, with the one-on-one coaching he has received from the local track club. He said he can feel more power in his legs.
He doesn’t want to just be on the field, he wants to make an impact.
“I want to be able to drive and get distance, and open up a lot more holes,” he said.
“I just want to get faster — get better.”