Saturday will be the epitome of Mason Fine.
The day is rather easy to predict. Only 16 yards shy of Mitch Maher’s record for career passing yards, Fine is almost sure to become North Texas’ all-time leading passer against Old Dominion. The game most likely won’t be stopped to honor the feat considering it’s away from Apogee Stadium, meaning Fine won’t know he broke the record until he returns to the sideline. Then, win or lose, Fine won’t really want to talk about the accomplishment to the very few reporters who made the trip to Norfolk, Virginia.
With nearly every outlet that covers UNT in attendance at Tuesday’s media availability, Fine discussed the upcoming feat plenty, pretty much saying the same stuff he has said all season about individual statistics. He was asked about reaching the record on the third question, and during a 31-second answer, Fine never mentioned himself or anything he’s done. He immediately mentioned his team, university and coaching staff, calling the feat an accomplishment for everybody, from his linemen to his receivers to his coaches to the defense.
“But what’s it mean to you personally, Mason?”
“I’m a big ‘put the team first’ guy,” he said. “Focus on wins, then after the season you can talk about statistics or whatever you want to talk about.”
Fine wasn’t supposed be in this situation, though, despite being in the same scenario in high school. He broke every major Oklahoma preps single-season and career passing record while at Locust Grove High School. But because of his height, UNT was his only FBS offer. Now, Fine will statistically be the best quarterback to ever play at the only program that gave him a chance.
“It’s a great feeling to feel this successful,” Fine said. “You just bring back all these people back then that told me I wasn’t going to be successful, I wasn’t gonna be able to play at this level. To be able to play at that high level, it means something to me and just shows that the hard work’s paying off so just keep working.”
Probably the only people outside of Locust Grove or Peggs, Oklahoma, that had faith in Fine out of high school were in Denton. The same place that now has nothing but confidence in the face of the rising Mean Green football program. UNT coach Seth Littrell deserves credit for being the first to put that much confidence in Fine.
“I had high expectations for him,” Littrell said. “A lot of it was due because of his mentality. Just being around him; he has a knack for drawing people to him and getting guys around him to play at a high level.”
Fine became the starting quarterback the second game of his freshman campaign, possibly a big reason he’ll reach every UNT passing record because of the time under center. He broke out as a sophomore, setting the Mean Green’s record for most passing yards and touchdowns in a season while becoming Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Year. As a junior, he’ll most likely finish the season atop every major passing record in the UNT record book with a year still left. He was also named one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s best quarterback.
“He’s one of those special guys where average is not good enough,” Littrell said.
But no matter what Littrell or other coaches or teammates say about Fine, or whatever story is written about him after he breaks the record and beyond, the praise about Fine will never come from the man himself.
“When I came down here, my mom and dad told me, ‘Just be myself,’” Fine said. “That’s really just what I’ve done. I just keep my head down, be humble about everything, give God the glory, praise my teammates, because without them, I’m nothing. The reason why I’m so successful and efficient is because of my coaches and teammates, and that’s really what it comes down to.”