Michigan football sophomore fullback Ben Mason walked into Schembechler Hall on Monday afternoon sporting a fresh mohawk and a special black T-shirt.
The hair is a tribute to former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who Mason looked up to as a kid. He adopted the style at the age 6, when he began playing football.
The shirt was a reward for Mason’s strong play on special teams.
“Yeah, so I think that there’s a point system or whatever that they do,” Mason explained, “and if you earn a certain amount of points, you get gear.”
On Saturday, though, Mason went viral for a play he made in kickoff coverage. In the fourth quarter of Michigan’s 42-7 win over Penn State, Mason came barreling down the field, ran through three blocks and tackled Penn State’s KJ Hamler at the 17-yard line.
“Yeah, so I think I was getting double-teamed,” Mason said. “I got off one guy, was kinda driving another guy back downfield, and then I saw the fullback come. He tried to chip my outside shoulder, so I kinda just chipped him back and got off and made the tackle.”
The play made the rounds on social media, where one tweet garnered over 350 retweets and 1,400 likes.
“As a scout, you can go an entire fall watching ST tape and never see that,” tweeted Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl and a longtime NFL scout. “That’s the kind plays that get fullbacks drafted.”
It wasn’t the only big play Mason made on special teams.
After the Wolverines took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, Jake Moody’s kick sailed out of bounds. Penn State coach James Franklin elected to move the ball back 5 yards and have Moody re-kick, with the hope that Hamler would break a long return and spark the Nittany Lions.
Instead, Mason ran down and tackled Hamler at the Penn State 23-yard line.
Mason played well on offense, tallying four carries for 10 yards and picking up a crucial first down on a fourth-and-2 play during U-M’s second touchdown drive. He was the lead blocker on running back Chris Evans’ fourth-quarter touchdown run.
But he drew praise from Jim Harbaugh on Monday for his efforts in kickoff coverage.
Michigan football’s Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, in Ann Arbor.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
“I think our special teams has been doing well,” Harbaugh said. “This past game, the two stars were Ben Mason and Tyler Cochran. Ben Mason on the wedge, he’s able to break the wedge, he’s able to stay alive on the wedge. He’s penetrating, puncturing the wedge, especially in this past game.”
Mason has seen his role on offense expand since the beginning of the season. But he still takes a special sense of pride in his special teams play. For him, that is where his college football career began.
“First two games as a freshman, I was on kickoff and kickoff return. So I like to think of it as kind of like the base for everything,” Mason said. “It’s just where a lot of things started. But I really enjoy running down on kickoff. I love special teams.”
Contact Orion Sang: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang.