| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Finally back on the field, Pitt's Mason isn't satisfied

ACC Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Pitt linebacker Dan Mason during camp on the South Side Aug. 2012.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Dan Mason listened to the question but responded with a quizzical look, as if thinking, “Why would you ask me that?”

The query centered on any soreness Mason might have felt after he did something many medical professionals thought impossible: He played football on his severely injured right knee.

Finally, Mason served up the answer with defiant pride.

“No soreness at all,” he said. “I feel 100 percent.”

Mason, a redshirt junior from Penn Hills, took a memorable step in his recovery Saturday, entering Pitt's victory against Gardner-Webb in the fourth quarter.

“It felt good,” he said. “It felt real good.”

The game was Mason's first since he suffered the injury — as Pitt's top middle linebacker — on Sept. 23, 2010, at Heinz Field. He was injured while in third-down pass coverage, stopping Miami's LaRon Byrd short of a first down.

Mason's right leg stuck in the turf, and he suffered a dislocated knee, tears to the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and damage to the peroneal nerve. Pitt trainer Rob Blanc said it was one of the worst injuries he has seen in 25 years at the school.

“I was worried that he was never going to walk again,” Blanc said.

Mason has done more than that — much of it in the weight room when no one was watching. Blanc said Mason never complained during long hours of rehabilitation.

“I'm happy for him,” coach Paul Chryst said. “He's a good story.”

Mason has been practicing nearly every day, even while falling to third on the depth chart behind starter Shane Gordon and Joe Trebitz.

“They got two good linebackers in there. I just have to outwork them,” said Mason, who started five games as a freshman and sophomore in 2009 and '10 before getting hurt. “They are doing their job. I have to do mine.”

A four-star recruit rated the No. 8 high school middle linebacker of 2009 by, Mason said merely playing a few snaps in a blowout is not enough.

“It was an accomplishment. It was a step,” he said. “But it's not my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to be out there doing what I used to do: starting and playing a full game. I'm not giving up this fight.”

Mason said he has received plenty of support from teammates, especially when his return looked improbable.

“There have been days I was down on myself, and they told me to keep my head up, keep working,” Mason said.

When Mason's name finally was called, his friends celebrated with him.

Said Gordon: “I think I was more excited about (his return) than he was.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at or 412-320-7997.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.




Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pitt

  1. As college football training camps open, defenses fall under microscope
  2. Pitt, McConnell-Serio agree to new contract through 2020-21 season
  3. Preseason honors piling up for former Pitt tackle Bisnowaty
  4. Akron defensive lineman Hargrove commits to Pitt
  5. Panthers freshmen give back, visit Mel Blount Youth Home
  6. Pitt’s Blair faces court date on DUI charge