Typically a University of Florida football player has a scholarship offer sheet featuring the names of powerhouse programs across the country. For instance, freshman Martez Ivey had offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU and Florida State, among others. Go down the roster and you’ll find the same holds true for most Florida Gators, which makes it funny that one of the players Jim McElwain and his coaching staff will depend on heavily this year could count the number of scholarship offers he had in high school on one hand.
“The recruiting process for me in high school was very easy,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Mason Halter said. “It was Fordham, they offered a half scholarship only, and then after that Kent State offered me.”
Halter had family ties to Kent State, the school where his mother attended college, but the Hinckley, Ohio native figured if he only had two scholarship offers he might need to make his decision based on education rather than football.
“I didn’t know what kind of future football held for me,” he said. “So I thought the better school would hold for me, so I wanted to pick the better school.”
Halter enrolled at Fordham ready to earn a degree and play a little football along the way. Unfortunately, a case of mononucleosis kept him sidelined for his freshman season. The Patriot League deemed that having mono wasn’t a “football related injury” so Halter was not allowed to use a medical redshirt. He went into his sophomore year a backup, still on half a scholarship.
“During my sophomore year I caught a break. The starting left tackle broke his elbow and that allowed me to start the rest of the season,” Halter said. “I showed that I could play and never looked back from there.”
Look back he didn’t. Halter earned First Team All-American honors as a junior and then again in his senior season. The kid who had one and a half scholarship offers coming out of high school became an All-American due to a little break, hard work and perseverance.
Halter graduated from Fordham last spring but his maturation as a football player left a burning desire to continue playing the game and chasing a dream he once thought was unattainable.
The problem was that there wasn’t any interest from schools. Whether schools didn’t know that he had a year of eligibility left or that he wanted to continue playing football was a mystery to him, Halter just knew that he needed to do something to get his name out there.
“Fordham helped me. I made a little film and they sent it out for me to all these colleges and one of the GA’s here [at Florida], Christian Pace, his brother was the tight end’s coach at Fordham, Ian Pace,” Halter recounted. “So they got the film, I came down here on a visit, talked to Coach Summers, talked to Coach McElwain and it was great. They’re great people, great football minds and it was a really, really good fit for me.”
Like that, Halter found a scholarship offer from the University of Florida waiting for him. He would be able to play immediately at Florida and enroll in graduate classes. The decision was a no-brainer. Halter arrived at Florida in the summer and immediately impressed the coaching staff by how quickly he picked up the offensive playbook. An older player, Halter knows that his time playing college football is limited, so he attacked the playbook like it was a job, and it didn’t hurt that a lot of the material seemed familiar.
“Concept wise the playbooks are very similar. The freshmen coming in are trying to learn concepts, what not to do and what to do,” he said. “From Fordham we had a similar playbook already, similar pass block and run block schemes, so I knew a lot of it already. It was just putting a name to a play now here, forgetting all the Fordham names and learning the Florida names.”
Sitting in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, an blue jersey with the SEC and Gator head logos on his chest, surrounded by more media than he has probably ever seen in his life Halter couldn’t stop smiling.
“I still don’t believe that I’m here really,” he said. It’s still very surreal to me.”
The 18-year old Halter would have laughed you out of Ohio if you would have told him that his college career would end in Orange and Blue as a Florida Gators offensive lineman. He’s seen games, he’s worked out in an empty Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Thursday he will officially begin his final college football camp. It’s all leading up to a moment for a kid who was hardly recruited out of high school to run out of the tunnel in The Swamp, one of the most electrifying experiences in all of college football.
“I’ve heard stories,” he said. “I’m not going to believe it until I see it for myself.”
The way his career has gone, you can’t blame Halter for not believing it until he sees it for himself.