Fine will be closely watching NFL draft
Spring is a time of high hopes for hundreds of college football players wondering when and if their names will be called during the National Football League draft, and one Cherokee Nation citizen is definitely in the mix, according to pundits.
Mason Fine, who in 2019 put the wraps on a spectacular career as quarterback for the University of North Texas, was expected either to be taken in the late rounds or ink a priority free agent contract.
“I’m going to travel up to Peggs, Oklahoma, and watch the draft there while my dad is grilling me up some steaks,” Fine said. “I’m going to have a nice dinner, enjoy it and watch it from there.”
In expectation of serious draft consideration, and before the NFL stopped player visits to follow social distancing guidelines, Fine was working with trainer Todd Durkin and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“I was in San Diego for a week during spring break to try to get some next-level quarterback-specific drills that I could bring back to my workouts here in Texas,” Fine said. “We tried to work it out so Drew Brees was there and I could meet him. It was a cool deal. The Saints and (San Francisco) 49ers are teams I’ve talked to, but there are also another handful of teams showing interest. But you never know. There may be a team that shows a lot of interest and doesn’t draft you, or wants you as an undrafted free agent, or another team you’ve never heard from might swoop you away.”
In four years of taking snaps for the Mean Green, Fine threw for 12,505 yards and 93 touchdowns against 34 interceptions in 39 games, including bowl contests. Fine earned the UNT passing record as a junior and won back-to-back offensive player of the year honors in Conference USA.
Such stellar numbers were bound to attract the attention of scouts.
“It’s obviously a great honor to get drafted,” Fine said. “A lot of people don’t. Just because you don’t get drafted doesn’t mean you can’t play in the NFL. Historically and statistically, a lot of guys go undrafted and have great success at the next level. I’ve always said, even growing up, that I’m just looking for one opportunity. Whether I’m drafted or undrafted, no matter what, after the draft it looks like I’m going to have that one opportunity that I’ve always asked for.”
Fine said he is also optimistic and confident due to “feedback” from NFL scouts and coaches, who believe he has a shot at a lengthy NFL career.
However, he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. On-field workouts for quarterbacks were Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.
“That was kind of frustrating,” Fine said. “I obviously wanted that combine invite because I just wanted to throw, do the tests, get measured, that stuff. I also wanted to be in front of coaches and GMs, and get the chance to have those face-to-face talks and tell them who I am and what I’m about. I was talking with my agent and there were a lot of teams that wanted me there, but how the combines work with the votes on that, it just didn’t happen. But I’m staying optimistic. I’m hearing that there are teams with high interest.”
As a Cherokee, Fine also hears of high interest in his heritage. He says he is proud to represent the Cherokee people.
“It’s amazing to have Cherokee heritage,” he said. “It’s a question that gets brought up. People really ask and want to know about it, and want to know how it’s affected me. When I go back home, I get so much support from the Cherokee Nation on social media and in person. They’ve been supportive since high school. It’s awesome and I feel great pride when I mention the Cherokee tribe and where I come from.”
Fine gained statewide notice during his days as quarterback for Locust Grove High School. If his NFL dreams come true, it might be a long time before he is again a resident of northeast Oklahoma. But home is never far from his mind.
“I don’t get to see the family every day,” he said. “That is the number one thing that I miss. I also miss just being able to walk outside into some peace and quiet. I walk outside here and it’s city life, so I miss the quiet and calm nature of things.”
Home is also where Fine’s aspirations took shape, and he is grateful to those around him who encouraged him to keep giving chase to his hopes and meeting challenges.
“I want to thank my family and the community – the community of Locust Grove, Peggs, Cherokee County, Tahlequah,” he said. “They’ve always been supportive. I’ve always heard people saying nice things about me. I want to thank everyone who has believed in me along the way. It’s been an amazing ride, but there’s one more ride left, and we’ll see what happens."