Originally published in the July 13 issue of The Contributor.
It’s roughly 700 miles from Nashville to Annapolis, Md. – the location of the United States Naval Academy.
And while there’s no way to physically make the two any closer, Amos Mason has helped shorten the distance in some respects.
The former Brentwood Academy three-sport standout was one of the early products of what has become a recruiting pipeline for Navy’s football program as coach Ken Niumatalolo enters his eighth season.
Signing a year after ex-Goodpasture quarterback – and current Heisman Trophy hopeful – Keenan Reynolds and alongside onetime Independence standout Jalen Wade, Mason is projected to be among 14 Middle Tennessee products that will either be on the Midshipmen’s roster or at the Naval Academy prep school this fall.
Another Midstate standout, East Nashville defensive back DeVarius Cortner, committed to Navy earlier this spring.
“I always try to send them down here to look for more kids,” said Mason, a 6-1, 250-pound junior who heads into the upcoming season listed second on the team’s depth chart at left defensive end, during a recent trip home.
“I know the talent we have down here. Coach (Ashley) Ingram, who recruited me, always takes a look down here and does a great job of recruiting them and selling them Navy, and they turn out to like it.”
The sales job and the success – Navy has made five bowl appearances in six years (including a 24-6 win over Middle Tennessee State in the 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl), with a 10-win season and a pair of nine-win campaigns – have made their impression. Among last year’s area seniors, eight committed to the program, with five of those entering the Naval Academy prep school for the upcoming year.
“They know the kids can be successful. That’s what they told me about Jackson,” said Jack Pittman, father of former Brentwood Academy lineman Jackson Pittman and an assistant coach for the Eagles. “The Naval Academy has had the same coaching staff, they’ve had success with the kids and they’ve continued to come back to certain areas. I think they’re willing to take a chance on a kid, listen to coaches a little more, based on relationships.
“With Jackson and me, we looked at the statistics. You’ve got 250 kids that are going to get drafted (annually by the NFL). What are you going to college for? You have to think about it in the right way.”
In addition to the younger Pittman, Blackman’s Charlie Davidson, Quen Hardy and Ronnie Killings will attend the prep school along with Independence’s Dom Childress.
Cole Euverard, who quarterbacked Montgomery Bell Academy to the Division II-AA state title and was named Mr. Football last fall, was inducted into the Academy along with Friendship Christian offensive lineman Andrew Wood and Lipscomb defensive lineman Jackson Mitchell.
All will go in with the knowledge that upon graduation, they are obligated to active military duty.
“You have a secured job, for however long you want to have it,” Mason said, in a variation of the pitch he received. “Most college kids are doing internships, trying to find jobs. They give us a job. We have to do it for five years. If you want to, you can continue doing that job, or you can get out and do something with your degree from the Naval Academy. You have a lot of options, after that five years. And at 27, 28, you’re still relatively young.”
With scholarship offers to wrestle – as a former three-time state champion — at Eastern Michigan and Cal Poly and to play football at Murray State and Samford, no other option was as attractive as Navy for Mason.
“I’m at a Division I school, playing huge schools like Notre Dame and Ohio State,” he said. “I don’t know how much better it could get. You get to play in the Army-Navy game. I’m pretty sure that was the only game on television that day. You’re going to a bowl, playing in the only game on TV. Getting that kind of coverage, everybody seeing us, the opportunity you have at the Academy and the opportunities you have after – it’s tough to turn down.
“I have no regrets.”