- Free Agency
You could forgive Canadian Football League scouts if the first thing they noticed about Mason Woods was his exceptional size.
At 6-foot-9, 320 pounds, the University of Idaho offensive lineman stands out for his sheer size. But after a strong career in the Sun Belt as a three-year starter with the Vandals, Woods — the 10th-ranked prospect in December’s CFL Scouting Bureau rankings — feels he has more than just size to offer a prospective employer.
“I want to prove to people that there’s a lot more to Mason Woods than a 6-foot-9 frame,” says the towering lineman out of Port Coquitlam, B.C. “I’m a fairly intellectual guy, I’m in the fittest shape possible and I’m extremely adaptable at multiple positions.”
In keeping with the theme of adaptability, Woods saw time at four of the five spots on the Vandal line over the course of his career — tackle in 2014, both tackle and guard in 2015 and full-time duties at strong guard this past season.
“Our coaching staff was very patient with me, coming to meetings early to help me nail things down during the transition,” explains Woods, ranked third amongst offensive linemen by CFL central scouting. “Within our system we switched sides, so where I was comfortable playing right tackle and left tackle, I’m now comfortable playing right and left guard as well.”
As a member of a strong offensive line which allowed the Vandal offence to flourish, Woods played a role in Idaho’s remarkable turnaround from 1-10 laughing-stock in 2014 to 8-4 Potato Bowl champions this past season.
“I realized that if you’re somebody who just relies on strength, eventually you’ll meet somebody stronger, so you have to be able to adapt,” says Woods. “I know myself well and I’m confident that I can adapt my game, whether I’m facing a strong D-tackle or a really fast D-end, at the pro level.”
Idaho offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich doesn’t minimize when discussing the impact of his towering guard.
“He played a bunch of football for us and had a big role in our program’s development,” says Cinkovich, who joined the Vandals in 2013 after successful stints at UNLV and Arkansas. “He’s a high achiever, first-class guy and really good with X’s and O’s.”
Cinkovich explains that, following a freshman redshirt in 2013, Woods made earnest strides to become a player with pro potential.
“Mason’s a guy that’s improved every year in his ability to execute and perform, and changed his body composition — his progression’s real impressive,” says the former offensive lineman with Montana’s Carroll College. “We won one game in ’13, one game in ’14, four in ’15, and then nine in ’16 — he was here the whole time, and had to have started something like 28, 30 games.”
Away from the football field, Woods is pretty unique.
Following in the footsteps of his older sister Mae, a former centre with the University of Houston’s women’s basketball team (2010-14), the B.C. native has flourished south of the border.
“Time management is the biggest thing for any college athlete’s success,” explains Woods, who holds two bachelor’s degrees and is nearing the completion of a master’s in public administration from Idaho. “You may have 20, 30, 40 hours of meetings and practice, and it’s easy to go overboard on your sport — that’s not sustainable.”
He reached that point during his first two years at Idaho and made an effort to become more well-rounded.
“I was almost too into football,” chuckles Woods in hindsight. “Now I’m a master of time management — I found time for other things while maintaining my dedication to my sport.”
In addition to being a grade-A student, he’s also the head of a fraternity on campus, overseeing 60-odd undergraduate students. His duties include budgeting, safety, recruitment and alumni relations.
Oh, and he’s made the dean’s list at Idaho in each of the last four semesters. While being a varsity athlete. And business student. And running a fraternity.
The path ahead
In terms of a dream destination in May’s CFL Draft, the big man from B.C. just wants to land somewhere he’ll be valued.
“I’ll be more than happy to play for any team that believes it can utilize my talent,” says Woods. “I grew up in B.C., so obviously the Lions would be cool, and I have a lot of family in Saskatchewan, so that’d be a pretty fun experience too.”
He’s utterly huge, intelligent, and, apparently, he likes his water.
“Mason takes good care of himself — carries around a jug of water all the time,” chuckles Coach Cinkovich. “I see him now and tell him that, when y’all sign him up north and he does well, he’s got to make a $10,000 Quarterback Club donation to our program to pay back all the water he’s costing us right now!”
All joking aside, Woods will be one of the top players on offer at this May’s draft. He has a pro frame, is coming from the promised land of NCAA D-1 and has the football IQ to succeed at the next level.
If there ever comes a time when he is done with football, he’s well-positioned for a career beyond the game. But he’ll likely have plenty of professional snaps to take between now and then.