By Noah Syverson, Viking Fusion Executive Director
The chip on Mason Kinsey’s shoulder was growing bigger by the minute.
Watching the NFL Draft from his couch with his family in Demorest, Georgia, Kinsey could only wait patiently while name after name was called.
“I honestly thought that I was going to get drafted in the late rounds,” the Berry standout wide receiver said. “I had talked to some other teams, and they had told me that I was on their draft board and things like that, and I was really optimistic seeing some guys from the East-West Shrine Game [which Kinsey participated in] come off the board. But the teams kind of disappeared on me a little bit.”
I swear. https://t.co/mf9waxcYto
— Mason Kinsey (@MasonKinsey87) April 25, 2020
Then, in the 7th and final round of the draft, Kinsey heard from his agent.
“He said ‘Hey, the [Tennessee] Titans aren’t going to take a receiver with these last two picks, and they’re interested in signing you as an undrafted free agent.’ He was like ‘Do you want to wait on some other teams?’”
Kinsey, who finished his illustrious career with a Southern Athletic Association-record 3,343 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns, was impressed with the Titans offer. The fact that they weren’t going to take a receiver at all in the draft and were reaching out to him before it was done signaled that they believed in him enough to give him a real shot at making the roster.
Additionally, they had been one of the teams to send an area scout to Mount Berry back in the fall to check out a Vikings football practice, and had talked to Kinsey at both the East-West Shrine Game and again at Kinsey’s pro day.
Later in the 7th round, Kinsey’s agent asked Mason what he wanted him to do when other teams reached out.
“I said ‘If they want to get a deal with me, they need to trade back into the draft and pick me,’” Kinsey said. At that point, he was basically set on joining the Titans if they followed through and did not draft another receiver with their final two picks.
“That showed me they believed in me a little bit. I liked that a lot.”
By the end of the final round, a deal was in place. Kinsey was going to be a Tennessee Titan, the first Berry football player in history to sign with an NFL team.
🚨 BREAKING 🚨
— Berry Athletics (@BerryVikings) April 25, 2020
“It wasn’t very hard for me to make the decision once I had the offers on the table,” Kinsey said. “It’s close to home, I feel like I’m going into a good spot as far as the depth chart, things like that. I got a call from the receivers coach right after the draft and he welcomed me to the team, I’ve talked to the offensive coordinator, the management people, the assistants to get everything squared away. I definitely feel like I’ve made the right decision.”
Now, Kinsey, who enrolled at Berry with a lot to prove after barely getting recruited by bigger schools, will be driven even more by the enormous chip on his shoulder.
“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Kinsey said, “and I’m very motivated to make the other teams pay for not picking me up. I want to be the biggest mistake that they can think of from this draft class. That’s my goal.”
The Titans are coming off a season that saw them reach the AFC Championship Game, where they fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Outside of fourth-year wideout Corey Davis and second-year man A.J. Brown, the Titans depth at wide receiver isn’t overwhelming. Throw in the fact that they did not take a receiver in last weekend’s draft, and the situation becomes one of the most favorable in the league for an undrafted free agent at the position trying to make the final roster.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Kinsey said. “It’s a good situation, a good depth chart, and it’s close to home. I pulled the trigger on it.”
What’s next? Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, NFL teams will be holding virtual organized team activities (O.T.A.’s) until the players can safely converge on team facilities. According to Kinsey, the Titans will begin their O.T.A.’s on May 8 and will hold a virtual rookie minicamp at that time.
Everything will be virtual until at least May 15, when the league will determine whether teams can allow players to go to the facility and take part in physicals and other team activities. Kinsey said the Titans have already sent out workouts and that virtual meetings have already been taking place.
For his part, Kinsey is using the quarantine to train towards making the Titans final 53-man roster in the fall.
“I don’t have much else to do besides workout,” Kinsey said. “I’ve been catching a lot of balls on the jug machine, running a lot of routes, and just generally trying to get in football shape. I don’t necessarily have to be a Combine athlete anymore, so I’m just trying to make sure that my body feels ready to go during camp. Whenever they pull the trigger and let us loose, I want to be ready to go.”
D3 to NFL: @MasonKinsey87 has become the first @BerryVikings player to sign with an NFL team. His road hasn't been easy, but he's gotten help from @hchsraiders_FB hometown hero @Tkunodos https://t.co/c8eKCweKpz pic.twitter.com/wj6gZL5oeH
— Cody Chaffins (@Cody_Fox5) April 27, 2020
Unless things change due to COVID-19 complications, in mid-July teams will hold preseason training camp for rookies, with the first NFL preseason game taking place the first week of August. By September 5, teams will have cut down their rosters from 90 players to just 53.
Generally, NFL teams keep about six wide receivers on their final roster. Currently, the Titans have 11 players at the position.
It will be an uphill battle for Kinsey. Small-school players don’t get the benefit of a long wait-and-see approach like Power-5 conference prospects do. But the former Viking is no stranger to unfavorable odds. Flying under the radar coming out of high school, the Berry product etched his name in the record books many times over with a legendary career, and proved a lot of folks wrong when he signed with the Titans.
He’s not satisfied yet.
“For me now, I’m trying to prove a point to all 31 other teams that they made a mistake, and to prove to the Tennessee Titans that they made the right choice,” Kinsey said.
They gave him an opportunity. Now Kinsey is going to run with it.
So many people hated. So many people doubted. But the ones who stayed down and believed in me, thank you. Tennessee, you’re getting EVERYTHING I GOT! Let’s shock the world. #TitanUp
— Mason Kinsey (@MasonKinsey87) April 27, 2020
From November 1, 2018: “I try and catch the ball when it comes to me”