Timothy Belin, Campus Carrier asst. sports editor
Senior wide-receiver Mason Kinsey will compete in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18, 2020. One of three senior bowls held each year for prospective NFL players, the Shrine Bowl will give Kinsey the opportunity to showcase his talents in front of scouts and managers from every NFL team.
Composed almost exclusively of DI players, the Shrine Bowl will see Mason play against and alongside some of the best student-athletes in the nation. For Mason, it is a chance to remove any doubts surrounding his ability.
“They just wanted to see me against better competition,” Mason said. “That’s what everyone is curious about, is they know I can dominate the DIII level, but can I do the same stuff against DI players? That’s just the biggest question mark over my head right now.”
Mason’s brother Garrett, a sophomore who plays H-back for Berry’s football team, said his sibling’s success was never in doubt in the Kinsey household.
“Our family has held Mason in a high regard for a long time and been waiting on this opportunity to show itself, because hard work was not the question,” Garrett said. “It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when he would get the chance, the route he took, and the Shrine Bowl is going to be a great vessel to achieve what he’s been working for.”
Head Football Coach Tony Kunczewski said Mason first caught the eye of NFL scouts last spring, when he participated in a junior day for them in West Georgia. Mason ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds, a result Kunczewski said had a big impact in attracting a string of scouts to Berry’s games this season.
“I think that really caught their eye, because obviously the films look really good on him, but to see what kind of times he can put out running really put him on the map,” Kunczewski said. “I think that was probably the initial time where I was like, big things could be ahead for him.”
The invitation to the Shrine Bowl arrived three weeks ago and Mason said he had no hesitation accepting it.
“Coach K texted me and said I had a letter at his office that I probably wanted to come get pretty soon,” Mason said. “I just remember coming to his office and seeing the invitation and kind of freaking out. I accepted it within a day, within twenty-four hours. I was one of the first people to accept their invitation, because I was just really eager to get out there and grab my spot.”
Mason said he called his parents and Garrett immediately after opening the letter, and Garrett said he was excited but not surprised.
“I was excited for him, because hard work has been kind of a staple of Mason for the past four years, and I knew that the opportunity would present itself at some point,” Garrett said. “Mason’s going to out-work anybody that he’s put up against, anybody that’s around him can see that because they have to uplift their game to his level.”
As someone who spends time with Mason outside of the football regular season, Garrett said he sees his determination to get better year-round.
“Out of season it’s just absolute grind, every single day, being able to out-work people in the weight room, on the field, in the film room, and just studying his own game, trying to better himself in every aspect,” Garrett said. “Whatever it is, just even the smallest of things, being able to critique himself and holding himself to a high standard.”
Kunczewski agreed, saying Mason’s biggest skill is his determination.
“He really wants this, he’s worked tremendously hard to get to this point,” Kunczewski said. “He’s certainly blessed with a lot of natural abilities, but he works so hard in practice, he works so hard in the offseason, and that’s obviously shown up on Saturdays in the fall.”
That work ethic has gotten Mason this far, and he is now ready to push on.
“I just want to go out there and show that I can compete,” Mason said. “I just want to be able to show that I can do it against some of the best players in the country, some SEC opponents, and go out there and have fun. Don’t ever forget to have fun. I’m excited to compete and show that I belong and maybe take the question mark over my head for level of competition and see where it goes from there.”
Garrett said that any question mark come from Berry’s status as a DIII team, so the Shrine Bowl is the perfect way to get rid of it.
“I think the Shrine Bowl’s going to be an opportunity to take the question mark out of his bio,” Garrett said. “A lot of NFL teams and even his agent will tell you the only question mark they have is not speed, it’s not athletic ability, it’s not anything physical, it’s level of competition. And just because we play DIII football doesn’t mean that we don’t have good football players that we play with and play against. And I think that being able to compete against a higher level of competition is going to open the doors for him to say this guy comes from a small school but he’s got the mind-set and he’s got the athletic ability, and really just the football knowledge to compete with DI athletes.”
For Kunczewski, there is no question regarding Mason’s ability, and he expects him to perform well at the Shrine Bowl.
“I think he’s going to give tremendous effort, and my hope is that he’s going to do really well,” Kuncewski said. “I know it’s not going to be for a lack of preparation. Mason’s a competitor, so I expect him to compete just like he has for the first four years here.”
No matter what happens in the game, Mason said that he will be happy as long as he gives it his all.
“In the position that I’m in, that’s all I can ask for is an opportunity,” Mason said. “I feel like I’ve worked really hard and put myself in a position to be here, because four years ago coming out of high school I wasn’t supposed to be in this position. And it’s always been a dream of mine to put myself in this position, but I think the biggest thing for me is all I can ask for is an opportunity. Once I get there, if I’m good enough, then I can make a roster. If I’m not, I feel like I worked hard enough to feel like I gave it everything I could and if I don’t make it then I can live with the result and there’ll be no regrets as far as that goes.”
The East-West Shrine Game will be hosted in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. It will be broadcast live on NFL Network starting at 3 p.m.