From the moment he walked onto the University of West Florida campus in 2019, Shomari Mason has led electric football. Now he has school records to back up the talent.
In last Saturday’s win over the University of Western Georgia, Mason had a 21-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to secure the win. On his way to securing victory for his team, he also set the school rushing record for most yards with 2,016, beating the mark set by Chris Schwarz (1,992) in the first three seasons of the league. UWF (2016-18).
Mason’s two rushing touchdowns against Wolves put him at 21 for his career to push him past Anthony Johnson Jr., a Pace High graduate, who scored 20 goals in four seasons (2017-19 and 2021).
“Honestly, that makes me grateful. I’ve played ball all my life and started when I was six. I just feel like all the hard work over the years has paid off. I also have a great support system around me with great teammates and coaches,” Mason said.
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Mason broke both records in 10 fewer games than Johnson Jr. and Swartz. They’ve done their damage in 37 career UWF games and Mason has done his in just 27.
“Honestly, I love Ant (smiles). When I came here he was one of the older guys who took me under his wing,” Mason said. “He showed me the ropes, taught me about attacking and really taught me about life off the pitch. He praised me and we keep in touch. I miss Ant and wish that be here to celebrate with me.”
The North Fort Myers High grad is 5-foot-6 and weighs just 170 pounds, but plays a lot bigger than listed. Mason has the speed to crack long touchdown runs, the strength to fight for extra yardage, and the versatility to catch him out of the backfield.
Mason took the lead in his 2019 freshman campaign. He finished the season with 416 rushing yards, five touchdowns and an average of 7.7 yards per carry for second-best in the Gulf South Conference. He was named to the first-team all-GSC and became just the third freshman running back to earn first-team honors in the past 10 years.
Adversity hit Mason in the regular season finale against the University of West Alabama. Early in the second quarter, he caught a pass out of the backfield and used his burst of speed before his worst fears came true. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee.
The Argos embarked on a playoff run to remember that ended in them winning the 2019 Division II National Championship trophy. Mason was forced to watch from the sidelines.
With the 2020 season canceled due to Covid, Mason was forced to wait another year to return to the field.
“It’s a bit sad to have to say it, but the pandemic has been a blessing for me. It has definitely given me more time to fully heal. That’s why in 2021 I was able to perform as I could,” Mason said.
In 2021, Mason became the first Argo to rush for 1,000 yards in a season as he finished with 1,024 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also had 209 receiving yards and a touchdown. His 8.5 yards per carry led the nation and the Gulf South Conference in 2021.
He finished the season with second-team GSC all-conference honors. In addition to his all-conference honors in 2019 and 2021, he was named GSC Player of the Week (11/15/2021) and was twice GSC Freshman of the Week.
Mason’s 2022 season is off to a great start. In a home loss to Delta State, he set the school’s single-game rushing record with 214 yards on 29 carries. He rushed for 585 yards and four rushing touchdowns in five games. He’s only gone two games this season without breaking the 100-yard mark.
“Shomari has been electric and dynamic for us since coming to campus. He always tries to be his best for us when he’s in the game,” Argos head coach Pete Shinnick said. “He’s always had good competition in the backfield and he just worked hard to win everything he got. I’m really proud of the young man he is on and off the court.”
Greg Hollis is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be contacted at email@example.com.