Riders' Mason Fine grateful for shot with the green and white
Being the fourth option on the Riders quarterback depth chart isn’t an easy place to be, but Mason Fine is grateful for the chance to play professional football.
“To be able to have an opportunity to come up here and play professional football and get paid to play a sport you love, I mean, you can’t ask for much more,” Fine said after practice on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old signed with the Riders in Dec. 2020, inking his name to his first professional contract.
Fine has always been an underdog. After graduating from Locust Grove Highschool in Oklahoma as the all-time Oklahoma record holder for passing yards down touchdowns, Fine didn’t have a single post-secondary scholarship offer.
After eventually finding a spot on the roster at North Texas, he finished his NCAA Division 1 career as the school’s all-time leader in seven categories, including 300 yard games and leading passer with 12,505 yards. Then, he wasn’t drafted by any NFL football teams.
The reason given for his recruitment shortcomings: his height. At 5’11”, he needed to leverage other qualities.
“The best thing about a quarterback being small, they’ve been small generally their whole life,” said Riders’ offensive coordinator Jason Maas. “They didn’t start 6’5 and shrink, so he’s just accustom to playing a certain way.”
Maas said Fine impressed the Riders’ coaching staff in camp with his ability to get out of tough situations.
“When we put him in pressure-packed situations he always seemed to find a way,” Maas said.
Cody Fajardo is listed as 6’2, backup Isaac Harker is 6’0 and third stringer Paxton Lynch is a towering 6’7. Fine knows he has to work harder than his teammates.
“Being in the film room. Knowing the playbook. Studying defense and just throwing the football. Trying to be as accurate as possible,” Fine said.
Maas, who has been coaching in the CFL since 2012, said he believes the rookie’s accuracy is superb.
“He throws one of the best balls I’ve ever been around. He can spin it like not many guys can. He can throw it all over the place,” Maas said.
While Fine is trying to learn what he can about the Canadian football game, he’s also trying to educate his teammates on his own background.
“I’m a very proud to be Cherokee,” Fine said. “I belong to the Cherokee tribe there in North Eastern Oklahoma.”
Fine said that growing up, he idolized Oklahoma product and Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford. The former NFL quarterback is also part Cherokee. Knowing how much of an impact role models can have, Fine wants to make a difference in his community after his football career is over.
“I have such a passion to try to get into tribal government and law and give back to my community,” Fine said.
Fine said he had to educate himself on his background when his teammates inquired about his ancestry. Now, he’s proud to share his history with new green and white teammates, like starting pivot Fajardo.
“I’m not as educated, I wish I was, so there was a lot of questions that I asked him,” Fajardo said. “What’s going on here, or can you explain this to me?”
“Here’s someone I look up to as in Cody, as in somebody who has been mentoring me and it means a lot,” Fine said. “That’s the whole focus of bringing awareness.”