For a while, Derrick Mason had to have felt like he might never get his NFL chance. A fourth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans in 1997, Mason had just 37 catches in his first three seasons. Yet everything seemed to click at the turn of the century when he racked up 895 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
It turned out that was just the beginning. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the next five years after that, including in 2005 when he moved over to Baltimore. In all, Mason — who retired on Monday — finished his career with 12,061 yards on 943 receptions, including 66 for touchdowns.
Derrick Mason joined WGFX in Nashville with The Wake Up Zone to discuss his career overall, enjoying the trash talking of the game, what he learned about patience, what advice he’d give to young players now and how hard it was to decide to retire.
On his career in general:
“I had a lot of help from some very good offensive coordinators. I played with some very good players. And it doesn’t hurt when you play with a quarterback like a Steve McNair, who always looked for you and had confidence in you. He just threw the ball to you and allowed you to do the rest. And then coming here to Baltimore and playing with Joe Flacco and watching him develop. More or less, my job was easy. I just went out there and played the way I knew how to play, played like a kid, because that’s what it is, a kid’s game.”
How much did you enjoy the chatter and the bravado of the game?:
“Yeah, that part was fun. I never took anything personal out on the field, I really didn’t. It was a competitive spirit; the competitive nature came out, especially playing Tennessee and Cortland [Finnegan]. … When you played against him, he was going to bring something at you, whether it was good or bad. I enjoyed my smack talk with him as well as people on the sidelines. That part, you know what, I enjoyed it. I never did it in malice. I did it with fun and I always smiled while I did it.”
What did you learn about patience throughout your career?:
“It’s a virtue, it really is. And you know what? I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way my career went the first four or five years. Even though I did want to play and I felt that I had the ability to go out there and play, it allowed me to really sit back and hone in on my craft. It allowed me to watch the guys in front of me, allowed me to know the offense, to gain the confidence of the other quarterbacks in practice. … When my opportunity did come, I made the best of it. So those first three and a half, four years of my career, I wouldn’t change.”
What advice would you give younger guys coming into the league?:
“My situation and I’m not just going to say mine … but it was kind of unique because for some strange reason, the older guys felt threatened. … For younger guys, I would tell them, latch onto a veteran guy and listen to them. A guy that’s been successful in this league, listen to them. … Go to them, ask them questions. And ask the defensive guys questions. But more importantly, work on your craft. Your speed, it goes. It’s going to go quickly. It might be an injury and your speed is gone. But one thing they can’t take away from you is your ability to get open and your ability to catch the football.”
How difficult was it for you to decide your career was over?:
“It wasn’t really as difficult as I thought it was going to be. The season that I had last year didn’t happen the way I wanted to, but it happened the way it was supposed to happen. It allowed me to really prepare myself mentally to retire. Things didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but it went the way it should’ve.”