Friday, January 15, 2010

Eye Black Challenger - Pershing Mason


Gators often forget that Tim Tebow was a homeschooled athlete and that Florida law allowing homeschooled athletes to play for public school teams is where he got his start as a QB. Below is an excerpt of Pershing Mason's story who has not been as fortunate in navigating the homeschool/Christian school athletic system in Louisiana.


Danny Wuerffel heard the ruling, but he couldn't believe it. The 1996 Heisman Trophy winner and former New Orleans Saint had been all but assured Pershing Mason would win the hardship appeal he made to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association this summer. After all, Mason's previous school (Wuerffel's Desire Street Academy) had run out of money. All Mason wanted was to attend 12th grade at a Christian school and play football. Officially, Mason had gone out of his district, but Wuerffel assumed no one would be that heartless. Would they?

So when a group of high school principals ruled Mason ineligible to play at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, La., Wuerffel's heart broke. "It was just another really sad moment," Wuerffel said, "in a long story of disappointment." Now, Mason plays for the Christian Home Educators Fellowship Patriots, a team made up mostly of homeschoolers, because he has nowhere else to play. A 5-foot-10, 190-pound linebacker/tailback once recruited by Louisiana-Lafayette and Southeastern Louisiana, Mason now wonders if college coaches even know where to find him. ...

It still bothers Wuerffel that he never received an explanation for the denial. "That's the frustrating thing," he said. "There is no reason. There's the group of principals who hear the case and vote, and they don't have to explain anything."

So Mason joined the Patriots, who aren't bound by LHSAA rules. But like Patriots junior quarterback Stevie Douglas, who also aspires to play in college, Mason wonders if college coaches will notice him on a roster full of homeschoolers. Playing for the Patriots, Mason is too exhausted to feel sorry for himself. He plays linebacker and running back, and he returns every kick. He never leaves the field.


He hopes his perseverance will earn him the break the LHSAA committee wouldn't grant him. He hopes a college coach will somehow run across his name and take a closer look. "It's hard being on this team. ... It seems I'm playing for God and just hoping," Mason said. "That's all I can do."


Photo: Andy Staples

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