Ben Mason identifies with one Raven more than any other.
Patrick Ricard and Mason are cut from the same cloth, physical and versatile jackhammers who relish contact. The comparisons have their limits – Ricard is a two-time Pro Bowl fullback, while Mason is a fifth-round fullback/tight end from Michigan still waiting to play his first NFL snap. However, Ricard had fun acknowledging the similarities after the Ravens drafted Mason.
Ricard came to Baltimore as a defensive lineman. Mason was offered a scholarship by Michigan as a linebacker. He spent his junior season bouncing between offense and defense, and got one start at defensive tackle.
During his video press conference after being drafted, Mason promptly mentioned Ricard as a veteran who will serve as a mentor. Ironically, Mason also wore the same jersey number at Michigan (No. 42) that Ricard wears with the Ravens. Mason will wear No. 38 with Baltimore.
"As a fullback, you watch all the other fullbacks around, because there's really not a lot of them," Mason said. "I love the way he plays the game. He's really physical and moves people off the ball. So, I look forward to learning from him."
Mason is starting his NFL career from a loftier position than Ricard, who was undrafted out of Maine before he signed with Baltimore in 2017.
Mason embraces the notion of being a throwback player, not a finesse player. During his post-draft videoconference, Mason wore a hat that read, "Make Fullbacks Great Again." He was a two-time winner of Michigan's "Toughest Player of the Year" award, as voted on by teammates.
Mason will also fit into the Ravens' tight end group because likes to hurdle would-be tacklers, just like Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. It's something Mason started doing in high school, and because it has worked for him, he doesn't plan to stop doing it in the NFL.
"So back when I was in high school, my running back coach, his father came up to me after one of my games," Mason said on the "Take Ten Podcast With Alex Roux." "I kind of got chopped down at the ankles and taken down in the open field. And he was like, 'Why don't you try hurdling over them?' So it kind of put that thought into my head. From there on, I just put that tool in my toolbox. It's not something that you really think about doing. It's just more reaction. When you see someone coming low, it's just another counter that you have on top of running them over."
Mason's physicality could make him an immediate contributor on special teams, and hanging around Ricard and Boyle is a good way to become a better blocker. Ricard made the most of his opportunity in the Baltimore has become a valuable piece of the team's offense. Now Mason will try to follow in those footsteps.
"I'm a player who is very versatile, and that's something that you need to be as a fullback," Mason said. On special teams, I play all four units. I take special teams extremely seriously, and there's no better feeling, to me, than running down on coverage units and meeting the ballcarrier. So, I look forward to making my imprint felt."