Mason Fine will always remember Monday night’s marketing class.
Fine, North Texas’ quarterback, had the class from 6:30-9:40 p.m. Monday but still took a break from learning to watch history. Fine said a friend of his had the Monday Night Football match-up between the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints streaming on his laptop, as Fine took the occasional peek to keep up with the game.
“I was sitting there kinda paying attention,” Fine said.
Fine didn’t want to miss Saints quarterback Drew Brees surpass Peyton Manning for most passing yards in NFL history, which was projected to happen in the game. Trying not to miss too much of class either, Fine nudged his neighbor and told his friend to give him a heads up when Brees was nearing the mark. Like any good friend, he did just that as Brees took the field for the Saints’ last drive of the first half. Moments later, Brees hit Tre’Quan Smith for a 62-yard touchdown down the sideline. The play eclipsed Manning’s 71,940 passing total, putting Brees atop the category.
“I watched him throw the touchdown pass, and then him celebrate for about a good 10-15 minutes,” Fine said. “Then I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll go back to listening to the lecture.’
“But, yeah, I watched it live, and it was a good feeling. I’ll always know exactly where I was at when he broke it and stuff.”
Fine grew up a Brees fan and still studies his film today, putting an emphasis on Brees’ footwork. Fine even wore Brees’ No. 9 in high school. That fandom seemed natural, though, as did the comparisons that eventually came as Fine progressed in his football career.
Brees is listed at 6-foot but has said he isn’t quite at that mark. UNT has Fine at 5-11, but he, too, will tell you he’s probably a little shorter. Both have been doubted their whole careers because of stature. Brees had only two major college offers, ultimately going to Purdue. Fine also had two Division-I offers, with UNT being his only FBS opportunity.
Both have also been defying odds their entire careers, with Brees obviously farther along.
“When people do it before you it just gives you that sense of hope,” Fine said. “You say, ‘Hey, if he can do it, then I can do it.’ That’s all it is.”
As a junior, Fine is draft eligible but there hasn’t been any talk of him going to the next level yet despite being in the top 10 in the nation for passing yards and touchdowns. It’s his height and level of competition most likely holding him back, which was the same situation for Fine out of high school.
The height problem has had Fine compared to Brees and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson since he emerged as a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year at Locust Grove High School in Oklahoma.
“That’s just how it’s gonna be,” Fine said. “It’s not a bad thing when they start comparing you to Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. But people are just gonna profile you and stuff. They do that because of height, I guess.
“You let the critics compare and review, and you just keep doing your thing.”