Mason Fine draft preview

North Texas quarterback Mason Fine throws a pass last season at Apogee Stadium. Fine is hoping to be the first UNT player selected in the NFL draft since 2004, when the Oakland Raiders picked Cody Spencer. The draft begins Thursday night.

Mason Fine was in Denton last week when he glanced at his phone.

The leading passer in the North Texas history has received plenty of calls and text messages as he prepares for the NFL draft, which begins on Thursday.

This one, though, was different.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson wanted to check in.

“That was neat,” Fine said. “You think, ‘Wow, this is serious.’ For a head coach to take time out of his day to send out a message was awesome. It shows my dreams are coming closer.”

Moments like that mean a lot to Fine, who faced a tough set of circumstances as he prepared for the draft.

Fine wasn’t among the 337 players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, robbing him of a chance to show what he has to offer. The hope after the combine was that he would have the opportunity to shine at his pro day on March 26.

That chance went out the window as well when the spread of the coronavirus forced the NFL to cancel college pro days across the country.

Those bad breaks will make it all the tougher for Fine to break the longest draft drought in major college football. UNT Hall of Fame linebacker Cody Spencer was taken by the Oakland Raiders in 2004 and is the last player from the program selected.

Fine is considered a fringe draft prospect because he is short for an NFL quarterback at 5-foot-11.

“It’s frustrating when your pro day gets canceled, especially after three months of training,” Fine said. “I put a lot of time and effort into it. I was looking forward to seeing my times in certain drills and talking with scouts.”

Fine has been forced to rely largely on his resume as well as his agent, Kelli Masters, as he looks to bolster his draft hopes.

There isn’t much not to like about Fine’s resume. He threw for 12,505 yards and 93 touchdowns at UNT, where he was twice named Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Year.

UNT coach Seth Littrell developed Fine and has said all along that he believes he will play in the NFL. Littrell wasn’t backing off that stance last week, when he expressed confidence in the NFL futures of Fine and defensive end LaDarius Hamilton, UNT’s other top draft prospect.

“Those guys can play,” Littrell said. “If they find the right fit with the right teams, they will be successful.”

Fine and his agent have worked every angle they can in the hopes of finding the right fit.

Masters had Fine fly out to San Diego to work with Todd Durkin, who trains Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints quarterback is listed at 6-feet and has been selected for the Pro Bowl 13 times. Seattle Seahawks standout Russell Wilson and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray are listed at 5-11 and 5-10, respectively. Fine is trying to follow in that trio’s footsteps and has attracted plenty of attention. He conducted video interviews with 12 teams as of Friday.

“I spent a little time with Brees before and after workouts throughout the week,” Fine said. “He told me, ‘Stick with it. Guys like us and Russ are breaking the mold.’”

Fine has been doing just that dating back to his days at Locust Grove in Oklahoma, where he shattered record after record while throwing for 13,081 yards and 166 touchdowns. He’ll be back in Locust Grove on Thursday to watch the draft with family.

“I told Mason his senior year he would play in the NFL,” said former Locust Grove coach Matt Hennesy. “The only knock on him is that he is short and has durability issues because of his size. But if you need a guy to put in there for a quarter, who else would you want?

“He will be on a team next week.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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