New England Patriots

After playing for college rivals and training together at the same position, David Andrews and Shaq Mason are side-by-side fixtures for the Pats, now and in the foreseeable future.

By Bob Socci, 98.5 The Sports Hub

DETROIT — Among the Patriots to accompany Tom Brady onto the field at the outset of this evening’s game in Detroit are a pair of interior linemen he’s stood behind for the better part of the last three-plus seasons.

When Brady takes the ball for the first time from David Andrews, it will be the 137th snap of the young season delivered to the quarterback from his center. And with it, right guard Shaq Mason will unfold out of his stance, likewise, for his 137th consecutive play since Andrews’ initial exchange with Brady on Opening Day.

Each will be making his 44th start since entering the NFL in 2015; Andrews as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia and Mason as a fourth-round pick from Georgia Tech. Between them, they’ve played more than 6,000 snaps as Patriots.

That’s a number Andrews and Mason will be adding to for the foreseeable future. Both are already on their second contracts. Andrews signed his in May 2017, agreeing to an extension through 2020. Mason’s new deal was reached last month and runs though the 2023 season.
Andrews and Mason’s expected longevity in New England is owed to durability and dependability to date. But four years ago the thought of them positioned side-by-side on the same NFL line seemed an improbability.

To start, despite Andrews’ ability to more than hold his own in the SEC, skeptics considered his “small frame,” as described in an NFL Media draft profile, a challenge potentially too big to overcome on the next level. Meanwhile, Mason was cast in Tech’s triple option offense, creating holes for ball carriers while rarely being called upon to protect a passer in the run-dominant attack.

Some, if not many draft evaluators, also saw Mason better suited for center — the same position Andrews occupied. Perhaps you recall the widely-circulated photo from the Yellow Jackets’ pro day in 2015.

It’s a snap shot of Mason and longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. And it captures a moment Mason had been preparing for in Atlanta — with plenty of assistance from none other than Andrews.

“We were both (working out) at center and guard at the same spot,” Mason said recently, referring to the Goldin Athletic Training Association facility where he and Andrews started to form the chemistry and trust they share today.

But before bonding as cross-training partners, they were intrastate collegiate rivals. Andrews hailed from the big state school in Athens out of the all-powerful SEC. Mason came from the private, self-titled Atlanta institute — the Georgia Institute of Technology — that competed in the ACC.

Based on the outcome of their last experience as opponents, bragging rights belonged to Mason. His Yellow Jackets were all but beaten by the Bulldogs ‘between the hedges’ on Nov. 29, 2014. However, after Malcolm Mitchell’s touchdown reception put UGA ahead 24-21 with 18 seconds left in regulation, Tech forced overtime thanks to a squib kick, long run and game-tying field goal.

The Yellow Jackets wound up winning by a 30-24 final, giving Mason the last and — often when together with Andrews — first laugh.

“Especially coming off our senior year, it was definitely tough that he got to throw some shots at me,” Andrews recalled recently with a chuckle. “But we had a great time training together and kind of had a cool relationship starting to form there.”

Andrews not only took the good-natured jabs in stride, he stepped in whenever Mason needed some help learning the finer points of a new position.

“It was funny, because it was kind of like everyone was like, ‘Oh, Shaq will be a center,’” Andrews remembered. “I’m sitting there trying to teach him to snap. We would do position work together and I would try to help him with things that I knew at center.”

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots center David Andrews celebrates a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots center David Andrews celebrates a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Although Mason wound up receiving an invitation to the NFL Combine, Andrews was shunned. Within a couple of months during the spring of 2015, however, they reunited in Foxborough.

In Week 2 of the following September, Andrews and Mason were both in the starting lineup together for the first time. As Andrews continued to spell an injured Brian Stork at center, Mason got the call at left guard. The Patriots ended up winning, 40-32, in Buffalo.

Mason has since shifted to the right. Still, he lines up alongside Andrews.

“Four years later, how it’s worked out is pretty crazy,” says Andrews. “We’ve become good friends through all this. It’s pretty awesome.”

You can hear Bob Socci on the call of the game on every game day for the New England Patriots, right here on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can also hear him on his own The Gridiron And Beyond podcast at 985TheSportsHub.com.