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Mason Earns Spot As Fourth Running Back


Marcus Mason woke up at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, too nervous to sleep. He waited out the night until it was time to head to Redskins Park for meetings.

All day he had butterflies in his stomach. He left Redskins Park still uncertain of his football future.

Late Saturday afternoon, he had not heard from coaches. That was a good thing.

Mason, a roster long-shot at the start of training camp, had earned a roster spot.

Mason, a 5-9, 218-pound running back, had a strong preseason. He may have solidified a roster spot last Thursday with a strong showing in Jacksonville. He rushed for 54 yards on 12 carries, a 4.5 yards-per-carry average, in the game.

For the preseason, Mason had compiled 95 yards on 25 carries, to go along with a touchdown run in the first preseason game against Tennessee.

Mason is a local product and one of the feel-good stories of Redskins preseason. He starred at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md., where he became the all-time leading rusher (5,700 yards) in Maryland high school history.

He went on to the University of Illinois, but decided to transfer to Youngstown State two years later.

In two seasons at Youngstown State, Mason compiled 2,739 rushing yards on 478 carries and scored 31 touchdowns. As a senior, he rushed for a school-record 1,847 yards on 302 carries and had 23 touchdowns.

For Mason, playing for his hometown team promises to be a "great opportunity" and a "great experience."

"It means a lot," Mason said. "Growing up around here, it's just a great experience to play for your home team, let alone play in the NFL. It's all I thought about growing up. Ever since I was six years old, I always wanted to play in the league. It's a great opportunity."

Asked what he focused on to impress coaches in preseason, Mason replied: "Basically, I showed them I could run the ball and I could pick up blocks."

It's only a beginning, though. Mason will soon find out that he must continue to practice at a high level, week-in and week-out.

Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are expected to share the bulk of carries for the offense. Rock Cartwright is the third backup; he's also a valuable special teams performer and kickoff returner.

Then there's Mason, who admitted he still needs to work on his special teams skills.

"I've put a big emphasis on running down on kickoffs and I've worked on returning kickoffs," he said. "My main thing is, I have to be able to tackle on special teams. That's tough for me right now, because I haven't tackled anyone since high school."

That shouldn't be too hard for Mason. He has already tackled the difficult challenge of making an NFL roster.

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