East running back puts up big numbers despite breaking both legs

News-DemocratOctober 23, 2013 

— Belleville East running back Brandon Mason has gotten a couple of bad breaks -- both of his legs to be precise -- in the last year.

Mason has bounced back from the two devastating injuries to resume his role as the chief weapon in the Lancers' ground-based offense.

"I started to think I was a little bit injury prone, but I didn't want that to stop me," Mason said of going through a long rebabilitation process twice. "I just thought about getting better and going back out there to play."

Mason had 39 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown in the Lancers' 17-14 double-overtime win over the O'Fallon Panthers on Saturday.

The performance earned him Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Week honors.

"He had more 3- to 5-yard runs of any running back I can remember," East coach Tim Funk said. "Then he broke out on a couple of them. The crazy thing is that he's about 165 pounds right now. It's not like he's a bruiser. What a tough, gutty kid."

Mason admitted still being a little sore this week.

"I kind of knew going into it that we were going to pound it straight up the middle, but I didn't expect that many carries," Mason said.

Mason rushed for 676 yards and six touchdowns last season before going down in Week 8 against Collinsville.

Mason suffered a dislocated and broken ankle and a cracked fibula. He had a plate with eight screws and a rod inserted into his right leg during surgery.

"A guy grabbed my back and swing his legs around," Mason said. "His body fell under my leg. I tried to get up. I had an ankle brace on, and it felt a little wobbly. It's supposed to be real stiff with the ankle brace, so I knew something was wrong."

Mason recovered from that injury and was looking forward to his senior season. Then on June 23, he sustained a broken left leg as he was being tackled during a summer practice.

"I actually got up and walked," Mason said. "I thought it might be a sprain or something. As it went on, it started to swell up some more and it started to hurt, so I figured it was probably a little more than just a sprain."

The injury was huge blow to both Mason and the Lancers.

"He came back where he was looking great over the summer," Funk said. "He was 100 percent and just had a fluke deal in practice where somebody went down low on his leg to make a tackle and broke it. It was horrible for him and our football team."

Though he was unable to practice, Mason still was chosen as a captain by his teammates prior to the season.

"I just tried to stay in a good mind-set, stay in shape by doing upper body work," Mason said of having to watch from the sidelines. "It was hard. I wished I could be out there with them -- games, practices and all. I went to every practice. It hurt not being out there."

Mason returned in Week 4, getting 11 carries for 10 yards in the Lancers' 42-14 loss to Belleville West.

He starting picking up steam from there, gaining 33 yards on 18 carries against East St. Louis and 88 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries against Alton.

Against Granite City two weeks ago, he broke loose for 236 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

"He's gotten a little bit better every week in terms of health," Funk said. "Even in Week 4 when I asked how he was, he said, 'I'm 100 percent coach.' I'm like, "No, you are not, Brandon.' He said, 'That's what I am going to tell you anyway.' He's still not 100 percent, which is scary."

Mason got a late start playing football because basketball was his first love.

"I thought that basketball was for me, but it turns out football was actually for me," Mason said. "I would have never made a high school basketball team. It's a good thing I found football."

Mason began playing football in the sixth grade.

"My first year I was horrible," Mason said. "I got the mandatory eight plays for community football. And, that second year, I got a little bit bigger and stronger, and after that, I kind of took off from there."

Mason, the son of Tawaina Mason, of Belleville, is planning to pursue a career in the military. He's leaning toward the Marines because he likes the challenge of a tough training program.

"I like discipline and all of that," Mason said.

Mason has one goal for the rest of his senior season: "Go deep in the playoffs."

That's no easy task for the Lancers (4-4), who must knock off the unbeaten Edwardsville Tigers (8-0) in their regular-season finale Friday at the Edwardsville Sports Complex to get into the playoffs.

"I feel we are at a good point right now playing close to our full potential," Mason said. "We haven't played to our full potential all season, but I feel like we are getting there now. We have a lot of momentum going into this game now after getting that win against O'Fallon."

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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