North Texas Football has found a gem. A gem which could turn the entire athletic department into a force that has yet to be seen in over a decade, but it may take more time than Mean Green fans are willing to wait.
Sophomore Quarterback Mason Fine wasted no time bursting onto the scene in weeks one and two of his freshman season. This season, Fine looks to take the next step into becoming the leader and figure-head that North Texas Football has needed for years.
Fine’s first game action came as he replaced Alec Morris against SMU in week one of the 2016 season throwing 8 for 11, while also not throwing an interception. Despite only throwing for 74 yards, he had already won over the hearts of the Mean Green faithful as the undersized under-dog who overtook the Alabama transfer.
As a freshman starter beginning in week two against Bethune-Cookman, Fine finished 59.4% passing with 1,572 passing yards and 8 total TDs, before exiting with an injury at Western Kentucky and missing the final three games of the season. Fine was also named the C-USA offensive Freshman of the year for his contribution.
Now, in the day and age of social media and instant gratification among the American way-of-life, college football fans are as impatient as ever and see the turn-around of other programs nearby each year.
With this being said, I plead: Be patient with Mason Fine.
Fine is heading into his sophomore season as a starting quarterback, not his senior season. And he has yet to attempt 300 throws, but already has the expectations of an entire athletic department on his back.
Even if Mason Fine can reach his full potential during his time on campus, he still may not have the same success in the column that means the most, wins.
Personally, growing up in Waco, I had a front row seat to two of the biggest turn-arounds college football has seen in recent memory, Baylor and TCU.
Let’s look at the Baylor turn-around first. And yes, I realize there are other factors that have come into play and has put a cloud over that program. But let’s look at the non-Art Briles part of the turn-around, RG3.
Robert Griffin III, much like Mason Fine, over took a senior starter, Blake Szymanski, in the first week of his freshman year and started much of the season. Finishing with many similar stats as Fine like 59.9% passing, around 2,500 total yards, and also being named the conference offensive freshman of the year.
I am not saying Mason Fine is on a fast track to win the Heisman Trophy (despite how fun that would be), but there are many similarities.
Griffin would go on to start for three more seasons with the Baylor Bears, despite being overlooked as a quarterback recruit out of high school, just like Mason Fine.
RG3 received two scholarship offers, one from Houston, and one from Baylor in 2008. Both programs were led by Art Briles at the time. Mason Fine, however, had only one full scholarship offer.
And as Fine said in an interview with Mean Green Gameday, he was on a fast track to North Texas. “It was an easy decision, because UNT was the only school to offer me a scholarship. That told me that the coaches had faith in me, and I am forever in debt to those guys.”
Back to Griffin, who saw his individual peak winning the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and winning a bowl game in a high-scoring monstrosity of a football game against Washington.
In a BCS bowl? No. Why? Because Baylor won 10 games in 2011. With a conference championsip? No, because all three of their losses came in conference play.
So what’s my point talking about RG3 instead of Mason Fine? To serve as a warning to North Texas fans.
RG3, as an individual, helped push Baylor to two Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014, but he had already left the program before any monumental strides were made.
TCU, saw a once in a generation running back named Ladanian Tomlinson roll through Ft. Worth and help win a share of two Conference titles, but still didn’t see the peak of his program until years until after he had graduated.
And while Mason Fine at North Texas, may not win a Heisman Trophy or become an NFL Hall of Famer, Fine has an opportunity to turn a program around himself if the fans and coaching staff remains patient.
The sophomore from Locust Grove has the Mean Green already standing behind him and ready to change the nation’s perception of North Texas Football, and it’s time for everyone to jump aboard.
With the leadership and passion that Fine possesses, he will be a player that recruits and current teammates want to play for, and that is how a turnaround begins.
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