Tre Mason leaves as one of Auburn's greatest backs, maybe 2nd only to Bo (Kevin Scarbinsky) Auburn running back Tre Mason celebrates after scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 37-yard run with 1:19 left in the Jan. 6, 2014, BCS Championship Game, which Florida State would win 34-31 with a final TD with 13 seconds left. (AP photo)
We never really knew how good Tre Mason was until very near the end of his college career.
Up to that point, we knew he was a bright and engaging young man, a terrific teammate, an outstanding representative of the Auburn program and a quality football player.
And then, in the final three games of his third year on campus, he showed us something more.
By rushing for 164 yards in the Iron Bowl against No. 1 Alabama, 304 yards in the SEC Championship Game against No. 5 Missouri and 195 yards in the BCS Championship Game against No. 1 Florida State, Mason showed us he was one of the best running backs in Auburn history.
He showed, of all the great backs who ve worn that uniform, when it comes to substance over style and production rather than promotion, he might ve been better than any of them but Bo Jackson.
Think about the numbers Mason leaves behind now that he s made the smart miles-on-the-tires decision to forgo his senior year and move on to the NFL.
He ran for 1,816 yards this season, which broke Bo Jackson s single-season school record of 1,786 in 1985, the year Bo won the Heisman. Mason s total is third in SEC history behind Herschel Walker s 1,891 yards in 1981 and Darren McFadden s 1,830 in 2007.
That means Mason ran for more yards in a single season than Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, Emmitt Smith and so many other tremendous SEC running backs.
Mason broke Jackson s Auburn record on his final carry from scrimmage, that tackle-breaking 37-yard touchdown run that put Auburn ahead with 1:19 left Monday night in the national championship game with Jackson watching from the sideline. He touched the ball one more time as the anchor man on the final hook-and-lateral pass play, and for a moment, it looked like he might take that one the distance before FSU finally knocked him down.
Mason finishes his Auburn career with 2,979 rushing yards, which is sixth in school history overall but more than any other Tiger who was on campus for only three years. Every one of the five backs ahead of him - Jackson, Carnell Williams, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs and Ben Tate - had at least 105 more carries in his Auburn career.
Mason s total is even more amazing when you consider he rushed for only 161 yards as a freshman kick returner in 2011.
How many of Auburn s other great running backs progressed from return specialist to between-the-tackles workhorse? How many of them gained the hardest yards of all at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds?
How many of them played as big a role on an SEC championship team, and how many of them were the best player on the field in a national championship game?
How many of them ran 109 times for 663 yards to help win the Iron Bowl and the SEC Championship Game and give the Tigers the lead with a minute and change left in the national championship game?
For all those reasons and more, for production over promotion and substance over style, it wouldn t be unreasonable to start the list of great Auburn running backs with Bo Jackson - and go from there straight to Tre Mason. AL.com coverage | 2013 Auburn Joel A. Erickson stories, opinion, news Thank you for subscribing. You should receive your first newsletter within 24 hours. To view and subscribe to any of our other newsletters, please .
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