Tommy Mason – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
A native of Lake Charles, La., Tommy Mason was a star on the Tulane University football team from 1958-60. In 1960, he earned All-America honors after turning in one of the greatest seasons in Tulane football history. The senior back led the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 663 yards and scored 13 touchdowns while setting a school record for all-purpose yards (1,475) that lasted 28 years.
Following a stellar prep career at Lake Charles High School, Mason joined his brother, Claude “Boo” Mason, at Tulane in the fall of 1957. In 1958, his first year of college eligibility, Mason hauled in seven passes for 97 yards and ran nine times for 20 yards on offense, tallied an interception on defense, and returned four kickoffs for 93 yards on special teams.
His rushing numbers increased to 336 yards and a touchdown on 81 carries as a junior while hauling in five passes for 54 yards and a pair of scores, returning nine punts for 112 yards and bringing back eight kickoffs for 175 yards in 1959.
Mason saved his best performance for 1960, his final season in a Green Wave uniform. In addition to his SEC-best rushing yardage, he tallied 28 receptions for 376 yards and five scores, five kick returns for 314 yards and 14 punt returns for 99 yards to go with a pair of interceptions. He was named first-team All-SEC by the league coaches and claimed first-team All-America honors from Time Magazine. He was selected to participate in the East-West Shrine Game, Hula Bowl, Coaches All-American Game and College All-Star Game.
Following his Tulane career, he was selected No. 1 overall in the 1961 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Viking. He was also drafted by the American Football League and pursued by the Canadian Football League.
“I wasn’t sure the AFL was going to last, and Canada seemed a long way away for a Louisiana boy,” Mason told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2007. “There was some talk about an agent, but my dad, Bill, was a watchman at a chemical plant, and my mom, Mary, was a nurse, and they couldn’t believe it … that this team from Minnesota was willing to pay their boy $12,000 to play football.”
Over his 11-year professional career, Moore ran for 4,203 yards and 32 yards on 1,040 carries, pull down 214 passes for 2,324 yards and 13 scores, and tallied an additional 1,550 yards as a punt and kickoff returner in stints with Vikings (1961-66), Los Angeles Rams (1967-70) and Washington Redskins (1971).
The bulk of his numbers came during his time in Minnesota where he posted 3,252 yards and 28 touchdowns over six-year stretch. Along the way, he was voted to the Pro Bowl from 1962-64 and became the team’s first All-Pro Player in 1963. Mason claimed first-team All-NFL recognition from the Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association, New York Daily News and United Press International in 1963 while garnering first-team all-conference honors from The Sporting News that same year and second-team All-NFL recognition from the NEA and UPI in 1964.
After injuries forced his retirement from the game, Mason attended law school and later served as a distributor for Coors Brewery in San Bernardino, Calif., for 17 years.
Moore, who was born July 8, 1939, was also inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (1981) and the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame (1978). He died on January 22, 2015 at the age of 75.
“Tommy was an enormous talent,” Minnesota teammate Fran Tarkenton said in a statement following Mason’s death. “He was a great player, a humble man and an outstanding teammate. I will always cherish the years I spent with Tommy.”