Robert Mason has spent a large portion of his life surrounded by football.
After a playing career, Mason moved into the coaching ranks, gaining experience ranging from pee-wee and youth football, to high school coaching from freshman to varsity, working with several programs.
Now, the former Polytech assistant will lead the Panthers as head coach in the 2019-2020 season.
Along with his work with the CR/Dover Raiders youth program, Mason jumped aboard the Polytech program as an assistant coach under Kevin Smith, a position he held for three seasons while leading the JV squad.
When Stanley Burris took over as Polytech head coach, Mason took on a new role as the head coach of the freshman squad due to his background in youth football.
Mason made stops at Red Lion Christian Academy, Caesar Rodney and Early College High School at Delaware State University, before arriving back at Polytech.
“The Polytech job came open and I saw it and debated about it,” Mason said. “I told my wife and she asked if I had applied yet, I said no and she asked what I was waiting for. So, it’s coming home for me, I’m so excited.”
The stops he made away from Polytech have had a huge effect on his coaching growth. At Caesar Rodney he was reunited with quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer, who now plays at Wesley College.
“I first got Jared when he was eight years old when I was president of the CR/Dover Raiders,” Mason said. “I taught him how to read defenses and he knew what hot routes were; a very intelligent young man who loves the game.”
“Coach Rob has been an integral part of my life, coaching me since I was about eight years old,” Wagenhoffer said. “Over the last 10 years, he has continued to be a trusted coach, mentor and friend - I believe that a great coach has the ability to motivate and inspire their players and help build their character and that’s exactly what Coach Rob does.
“As for X’s and O’s of football, he’s undoubtedly forward thinkings; what makes him unique as a high school coach is that he’s never limited himself to a specific football system or ofensive scheme - his approach to coaching football is having a more flexible system that adjusts and game plans are designed suitable for the type of players he has.”
Perhaps the spot that affected Mason most was his time at Red Lion Christian Academy as offensive coordinator.
Once a national powerhouse, Red Lion’s program quickly fell apart in 2011 amidst questionable recruiting practices and the school’s growing debt. Nearly the entire football program was gutted.
Not long after, Mason arrived as the program was beginning to find itself once again.
The team increased passing and rushing yardage while he led the offense.
“Being there taught me a new approach that can reach kids in a different way,” Mason said. “I was an old school guy, but being at Red Lion after that situation I learned it wasn’t about coaching football, it was about walking a spiritual walk. It strengthened me as a man and I’ll always value my time there.”
Last season, Mason coached a new program at Early College High School at Delaware State University.
“There were a lot of struggles being a first-time program with 17-20 kids,” Mason said. “But we definitely put some things together there.”
Returning to Polytech, Mason brings with him all he’s learned. He said he started off with a primary focus on defense, playing strong safety in high school before a college career was cut short by injury. Though as his coaching career progressed, his experience on the defensive end only strengthened his interest in the offensive side of the football.
“I had to study offenses to find out how to stop them and, being a creative person, I fell in love with it,” Mason said. “I spent hours studying and preparing myself, going to clinics and camps, looking at what some of the other great minds do and I brought it back with me.”
Experience and a hunger for knowledge have led Mason to where he is today, but in his mind, it’s also what sets him apart from the others.
“My strong point is the true understanding and to teach that understanding to kids, teaching and implementing the fundamentals and different schemes we see today,” Mason said. “A lot of coaches who’ve been coaching for years teach their system, I teach the game of football.”