Walking into the final press conference of Mason Fine’s North Texas football career, it was clear that emotions were running high. As much as Fine wanted to hold back his emotions, he almost broke and delivered a line that showed a lot about the character of the quarterback.
“This whole season has been an example of how life is,” Fine said. “Life is not perfect and this game is why I love it so much.”
Fine expressed admiration for some of his senior teammates and echoed a sentiment that he’s pressed throughout the season: brotherhood. Fine mentioned he was excited to see what five of his teammates (Michael Lawrence, Taylor Robinson, Ladarius Hamilton, Khairi Muhammad and Kelvin Smith) were going to do next.
“This chapter is closed, but I’m onto the new one,” Fine said. “I know every single one of those men are gonna be successful in whatever they do and I know they learned something from this season.”
Very rarely do three-star recruits go down in program histories as one of the greats. Even more rare is the phenom occurring at the quarterback position. Fine gave enough proof to provide an argument that he will go down as one of the greatest Mean Green football players of all time, behind perhaps only Mean Joe Greene.
This mindset is echoed by his head coach Seth Littrell. Littrell took the reins for the football program shortly after the 2015 season ended and controlled the recruiting for the following years class — Fine has been with Littrell since the beginning.
“He’s one of my all-time greats, I know that,” Littrell said. “He’s a guy that shows up to work each and every day and is very positive knowing how it works.”
Littrell isn’t alone in his assessment. Fine’s teammates feel the same way and aren’t afraid to talk about it.
“He’s the definition of selfless, tough and disciplined,” senior receiver Michael Lawrence said. “He’s just been one of those guys who does everything for this team, and he’s gone above and beyond.”
Lawrence joined Fine as the offensive team captains and both sit on the team’s leadership council. Lawrence went on to joke about Fine, saying he wouldn’t have accomplished what he has if the signal-caller hadn’t been the one throwing to him.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have the catches or the stats that I have today,” Lawrence said. “He’s helped me out and bailed me out in so many situations on the field and he’s made me look really good. He’s done a lot of good things for this program and he’ll continue to do that in the future.”
Fine ended his career at North Texas with 12,505 yards, 93 touchdowns and 34 interceptions on 62.8 percent passing. He added seven rushing touchdowns to that total to eclipse 100 total touchdowns, making him the only Mean Green athlete to be responsible for 100 touchdowns in his career. He surpassed Mitch Maher for passing touchdowns and total touchdowns responsible for this season, cementing his place in the record books.
Beyond the stat sheet, Fine has received accolades from C-USA as well as national awards. His freshman year, Fine was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. His sophomore year, Fine was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and to the All-Conference First Team. His junior year found him becoming the fifth player in conference history to receive back-to-back C-USA POTY nods. At the conclusion of his senior year, Fine is on the watchlists for the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Manning, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, CFPA National Performer of the Year and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose awards.
Fine hardly bats an eye at the statistics and accolades he’s accumulated since he arrived in Denton. Rather, he’s focused on the lifelong friendships, memories and growth he’s experienced with North Texas.
“I came up short on a couple of goals and I feel like maybe I let my team down in the long run, but at the end of the day I couldn’t be happier with my time here,” Fine said. “Like I said, relationships I’ve built, friends I’ve made, it’s something I’ll have forever.”
When athletic director Wren Baker came to Denton in 2016, he put together a five-year plan to turn North Texas athletics around. With a quarterback like Fine on campus, Baker found it to be a little easier to instill a new culture.
“He represents who we are and what we aspire to be: a gritty university,” Baker said. “People really bought into who he is and his story and his leadership, and it’s been really impactful on our program.”
During the season finale against Alabama-Birmingham, a video tribute was played to Fine at the conclusion of the third quarter. It showcased his journey from Peggs, Oklahoma up until that final game. Despite usually being locked in, Fine heard his voice and his attention was diverted momentarily to the scoreboard.
“I heard my voice and was like, ‘That’s different,’ and I looked up there and kinda had to look away or I was gonna get emotional,” Fine said. “Especially with the guys in the huddle all cheering me on and showing emotions.”
With his eyes set on whatever comes next, Fine is eternally grateful for his college football experience at North Texas.
“That just shows how great this university has treated me and my family,” Fine said. “This experience has been better than I ever thought it would be. It’s better than what it was in my dreams. I couldn’t be more happy to be part of that Mean Green family and I appreciate everything everyone has done for me.”
Featured Image: Senior quarterback Mason Fine looks out over the field after completing his final drive at North Texas at the game against Alabama Birmingham on Nov. 30, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard