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Derrick Mason was largely a self-made player. The Tennessee Oilers had high hopes for him when they drafted him out of Michigan State with a fourth-round pick.
But they had high hopes for the other eight receivers they drafted during the span of his eight-season career with the franchise, too. None of them panned out to be anything close to what Mason was.
I don't know if there were signs that Mason was contemplating retirement. While he said in his announcement that he felt he didn't have the drive to work out like he used to, I wonder too if the recent death of his longtime teammate and friend Steve McNair may have been one of the final factors.
Mason has always seemed to be a devoted family man, and he pledged to McNair's sons he would try to fill the void in their lives.
Not blessed with great speed, Mason was well-suited for the Oilers/Titans and Ravens, playing with a grit and a toughness and was not afraid to jaw at defenders.
He could go over the top sometimes and had a little clubhouse lawyer in him.
But I found him to be a class act, a stand-up guy and an impressively productive player. His 73 receptions in 2001 ended a five-season streak in which tight end Frank Wycheck led the franchise in catches. Mason grabbed 95 passes in 2003 and 96 in 2004, the most for the franchise since Haywood Jeffries pulled in 100 as part of 1991's run-and-shoot Houston Oilers, quarterbacked by Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
Mason played for a second franchise not because the Titans didn't want him, but because his contract was drawn up like many others that collectively prompted Tennessee's 2005 salary-cap purge.
Perhaps the most impressive thing that can be said about him is that during his time in Tennessee, when the team failed over and over trying to find top options at the position, he developed into a Pro Bowl receiver. (He was a receiver for the AFC in 2003, a return man in 2000.)
The only other Titans receiver in the 12 years since the franchise drafted Mason that produced a big season by league standards was Drew Bennett, undrafted in 2001, who caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004.