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Ben Mason Optimistic About Chances In National Football League Draft



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Ben Mason has come a long way in his football career. And now the former Newtown High School standout and Michigan player has his sights set on advancing to the next level on the gridiron — the National Football League.

The NFL draft will be held at the end of April and Mason, a 2017 graduate of NHS who will graduate from Michigan this spring, is optimistic he will be selected by one of the 32 teams at football’s highest level.

Some of Mason’s success, no doubt, may be attributed to his coaches and teammates, but off-the-field and offseason training that included workouts under the direction Kevin Cleary, a certified strength and conditioning specialist with distinction by NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) has also been a key factor.

Mason, a business administration major, was back in town early this spring, and working out with Cleary, owner of Athlete Factory, 77 South Main Street. Mason had trained under the guidance of Cleary, who at the time worked out of NYA Sports & Fitness, throughout his high school career. These days, Clearly is helping keep Mason in the best possible shape during his offseason.

“I’m thinking it’s giving me a huge edge. Not a lot of people train the way he trains,” Mason said of working out under the direction of Cleary, who has 30 years of exprience in the health and fitness field and is a national speaker and consultant on dynamic flexibility, strength & speed training and fitness.

Rather than push it to the limit and lift what could be too much weight at once, Cleary has his athletes build up strength with more repetitions. Cleary said the philosophy that is followed is that technique is more important than maxes with weights.

“What we work on is proper movement patterns with an emphasis on Olympic lifts rather than bench, squat, and dead lift” which can provide athletes with three to five times the power, which athletes need, Cleary said. “If we want an athlete to be more explosive, our feeling is that these lifts are a must.”

Mason has spent a bulk of his days in Michigan throughout the past four years, but gets pointers from Cleary from afar as the two keep in touch and Cleary checks up on how Mason is doing.

Once a touchdown-scoring and tackling machine for the Nighthawks, when he used his big frame to bulldoze his way through opposing defenses, or bring down ball carriers at Blue & Gold Stadium as well as on the road, Mason went on to play fullback for Michigan and scored nine touchdowns in two seasons before changing positions to accommodate team needs.

Mason was a defensive tackle his junior year. He got back to playing more as a fullback in his senior year and logged a receiving TD. Mason also logged seven solo tackles and assisted on seven more. He did a bulk of his work blocking for teammates and contributing where needed on special teams.

“No matter what is asked of you, you’ve got to be able to do it,” said Mason, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds.

“He’s very coachable. It’s 100 percent effort,” Cleary said of Mason. “His strength is his focus. He knows what he wants and he goes after it.”

If Mason gets what he is after now — a spot on an NFL team — he will be Cleary’s sixth athlete to go professional, and third in the NFL.

“I can see him playing in the NFL for a long time,” said Cleary, adding that Mason will help a team however he is needed due to his work ethic.

The NFL combine was held virtually this year, and Mason and other NFL hopefuls showed their strengths to NFL teams from their respective colleges. Mason was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, and went to Mobile, Ala., to compete with other top college players. He has spoken with representatives of every NFL team.

Mason, although versatile, considers himself a fullback all the way and is entering into the draft as one. Fullbacks had been in decline in the NFL over the past decade-plus. Cleary said there are maybe nine NFL teams to use a fullback but that the use of the position seems to be on the rise again, and there could be 15 or so teams implementing fullbacks next season.

“We all knew how special Ben was the moment we met him as a freshmen. He was always locked in with tremendous focus and an unmatched physical mentality,” said Bobby Pattison, head coach of the NHS football team, who was defensive coordinator under then-head coach Steve George when Mason played for the Nighthawks.

“He basically was all-everything from his sophomore year on,” said Pattison, referring to Mason achieving all-conference and all-state accolades.

“And the best part about it, he is a phenomenal person and teammate. Ben has a lot of things going for him that will help him succeed at the next level. I think his character will carry him to continued success at the next level. Everywhere he has gone, he has left it a better place. What else could you ask for? The coaches at Newtown are rooting hard for him,” Pattison added.

Mason does not have a top choice for an NFL team or city. He just wants to be on the gridiron next fall.

“I’m really excited about the draft,” said Mason, adding that he has known since he was about 6 years old that he wanted to pursue a career in the NFL. “It’s not the end destination. The work doesn’t end here. I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

“At the end of the day it’s not a guarantee,” Mason said of potentially being drafted. “But I feel really good about what I’ve done to this point — and what I’ll do in the future.”

Ben Mason, left, trains under the direction of Kevin Cleary at Athlete Factory, in early April. Mason, who played on the gridiron at Newtown High before playing college ball at Michigan, is hopeful of being drafted by an NFL team. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
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