Freshman wows Pitt with formidable skills
TribLIVE Sports Videos
If Adam Gunn wasn't impressed with Dan Mason before he bench-pressed 395 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds prior to Pitt's training camp, the sixth-year senior middle linebacker is now.
After watching the freshman from Penn Hills play with the presence of a veteran, Gunn didn't dismiss the possibility that he might end up playing next to Mason sometime this season instead of starting ahead of him.
"He's a fast guy, he's very physical and he has leadership characteristics that are ready to break through. When he gets the opportunity, I'm sure he'll shine," Gunn said. "It's my job to take him under my wing and watch film with him and make sure he understands exactly what's going on out there, make sure he's in his playbook. It's the whole mental aspect he's missing right now. Once he gets that, he's going to be a great player for us."
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has called Mason the "real deal," and compared his traits favorably with three former Pitt linebackers playing in the NFL.
"He's got (Scott) McKillop's playmaking ability, H.B. Blades' seriousness and Clint Session's athletic ability," Wannstedt said. "He's like a combination of all those guys."
Not to put any pressure on Mason, considering that McKillop led the nation in tackles in 2007 and joined Blades as recipient of Big East defensive player of the year and first-team All-America honors and that Session starts for the Indianapolis Colts.
The 6-foot, 231-pounder wanted to prove that he wasn't just a workout warrior, so he treated the first day of practice in full pads as if it were an audition for a segment of ESPN's "Jacked Up." Soon, he was running with the second-team defense and looking like a star of the future - if not sooner.
"You see guys who can bench press a house but they can't do a lick on the field," Mason said. "I just wanted to go out there and prove that I have the skills, as well as the strength, and I can put them all together and be a good player."
Mason is one of three true freshmen expected to play when Pitt hosts Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field - tailbacks Dion Lewis and Ray Graham are the others -- and will start on the kickoff coverage and punt-return units.
Mason might actually prefer if the Panthers lost the coin toss.
"Being on kickoff, I'm just going to go out there and try to bust somebody's head and set the tone for the game," Mason said. "I know the defense is going to handle it and stop them, so I won't mind."
Wannstedt was so impressed with Mason's tenacity that the Pitt coach tells a story already bordering on the legendary. When ordered by strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to perform up-downs, an exercise that involves dropping from standing position into a push-up repeatedly, Wannstedt recalled that Mason "attacked those 25 up-downs like it was the opposing ball-carrier."
"I'd never seen a guy be that aggressive doing up-downs," Wannstedt said. "It's just his nature. You never have to talk him about giving effort. You're never going to have to talk to him about being ready to go."Additional Information:
The Mason file
Name : Dan Mason
Height, weight : 6-foot, 231 pounds
Class : Freshman
Position : Middle linebacker
Notable : Three-year starter at Penn Hills was an Associated Press Class AAAA first-team all-state selection as a senior, when he recorded 100-plus tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. ... Rated nation's No. 8 middle linebacker by Scout.com. ... His brother, Terry McCall, played running back and defensive back at Robert Morris from 1996-99.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- North Versailles Township approves $6.79 million budget that keeps tax rates flat
- Jamie’s Dream Team founder says she will press on despite new illness
- Trials ordered for two charged in Monongahela mugging case
- Hospital finances still crying ‘ouch’
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- New Kensington-Arnold confronts ‘frightening’ budget situation
- Cezanne likely to attract bidders
- Steelers notebook: Chiefs pass rush to test Steelers
- Pitt offensive coordinator Rudolph still focused on Panthers
- Veteran tight end Miller’s blocking skill crucial to success to Steelers running game
- No tax increase for Everson next year