Georgia Tech guard Shaquille Mason will play his last for the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl Dec. 31. It will be a bittersweet parting for Yellow Jackets fans to see the All-American make his final start and also for one former Tech center turned patent attorney and sideline reporter.
“I’m going to miss watching Shaq play,” Sean Bedford said. “He’s so big, so strong and he’s so good on the drive blocks, but he mixes that with the ability to pull incredibly well. Like I said, his hustle plays down the field, they’re incredible for someone his size. He’s very athletic, but more than that, he gets downfield and he really gives great effort on every play.”
I spoke with Bedford by phone last Saturday for a story a phone about the offensive line being most likely the best in coach Paul Johnson's tenure at Tech. (Bedford's response: "I'll go ahead and say, Yeah, I think it is." As an aside, as things would have it, he called me on my phone during the middle of coach Brian Gregory’s post-game news conference after the Vanderbilt game, which was particularly a problem because I was using my phone to record the interview. You can read the story here .
At any rate, Bedford provided great insight into his former pursuit, as he always does. He said that, while fans expect (and perhaps reasonably so) players to give 100 percent effort on every play, that, for players of Mason’s size, driving into equally sized players 70 times with maximum effort is not easily done.
“It’s a real fight for these guys to be out there and continue to push that hard and for someone as big as Shaq to keep doing that” is remarkable, Bedford said. “He does it the whole game and that’s important and I don’t think people really appreciate how much of a difference that makes.”
Bedford raved about a particular highlight, when Mason lead wide receiver DeAndre Smelter on his 75-yard touchdown run off a reverse in the final minutes against North Carolina. You can see the clip here . If he was on the field for every offensive snap, which I’m guessing he was, it was Mason’s 67th snap of the game, not counting extra points.
Such was the Tar Heels defense’s pursuit prior to the play side that Mason didn’t even have to actually block anyone. Still, it wasn’t until Smelter got to the 50-yard line, 25 yards from the line of scrimmage, that he actually passed Mason, who continued to sprint downfield looking for Tar Heels to bring down.
“I think Shaq is the master of that,” Bedford said.