By John Zenor
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn tailback Tre Mason, who helped power the Tigers into the national championship game, is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
“It was a dream since I was young,” Mason said Thursday in announcing his decision. “I’m a dream chaser, and now I’m just trying to make a dream into reality.”
The Heisman Trophy finalist was the Tigers’ workhorse late in the season, coming through in the season’s biggest games.
“It was a big dream of mine,” Mason said. “I wanted the ball bad, and I felt I could do something with the ball in my hand.”
Mason, who finished sixth in the Heisman voting, is projected as a likely mid-round draft pick. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder said he received a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board.
Third-year sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson is also headed to the NFL.
Mason broke Bo Jackson’s 28-year-old school single-season record with 1,816 yards. He also ran for 24 touchdowns and finished with six consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
“He did a wonderful job for us not only this year, but really his whole career,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who recruited Mason when he was offensive coordinator. “Not just the way he played football but the way he represented Auburn.
“This is a big day for him and his family. This is a big day for Auburn, so I’m very proud of him.”
Mason rushed for 195 yards and scored two touchdowns in Monday night’s BCS championship game against Florida State Monday night. His tackle-breaking 37-yard run with 1:19 left gave the Tigers the lead before losing 34-31.
Once regarded as an undersized, speed back, Mason averaged 34 carries and 194.5 yards over the final four games. He ran 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Missouri. Malzahn called Mason “one of the tougher individuals in all of college football.”
“He can run between the tackles, he’s got great courage, he plays his best games in his biggest games, and he’s a good receiver out of the backfield also,” the coach said.
Mason was asked what kind of running back the team that drafts him will get.
“I feel like they’ll get somebody that’s a hard worker, willing to do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “My mind’s not just set on money, it’s set on championships. I have yet to win a championship, and my mind-set’s not going to change. God willing, I’ll win a championship at the next level.”