AUBURN | Tre Mason made the decision he had to made Thursday, announcing plans to forgo his final college season in exchange for an early start to his NFL career.
Any other choice would have been wrong.
The truth is that Mason, a 5-foot-9 tailback with an enticing blend of speed and power, never will be more coveted by professional teams. He set a record for rushing yards (1,816) and rushing touchdowns (23) in a season and saved his biggest performances for the biggest moments.
Mason averaged 6.5 yards per carry in games against Alabama, Missouri and Florida State. All were ranked in the top 5 at the time.
"This has been my dream since I was young," the junior said Thursday. "I'm a dream chaser and now I'm just trying to make a dream into reality."
Many top tailbacks are instant stars in college. LeSean McCoy, who won the NFL's regular-season rushing title in 2013, rushed for 1,328 yards as a freshman at Pittsburgh. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings rushed for 1,925 yards as a freshman at Oklahoma.
That's not Mason.
He was cleared by the NCAA four days after the start of fall camp in 2011 and finished with 161 yards on 28 carries. He was slender; coaches considered him the second choice (behind Onterio McCalebb) as the Tigers' speed back.
Yet Mason was determined to rise above that gig. He gained 15 pounds prior to his sophomore season without losing a step and became the Tigers' de facto offensive star. Mason finished with 1,002 yards during the 2012 quagmire, first showing the determined approach that soon would make him a star.
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