An ode to Mason-isms: A look at Coach Mason’s finest phrases


Blake Dover

September 19th, 2015 – Derek Mason during the Commodores’ 47-7 win against Austin Peay Saturday afternoon at Dudley Field. Photo by Blake Dover.

Simon Gibbs

Unlike Aretha Franklin, Vanderbilt’s head football coach Derek Mason never asked for respect. He earned it.

A day after he was given the job, Mason’s first task was to address the media. It was on this day in January of 2014 when “Mason-isms” were born, and in the process, the word “respect” was redefined.

Mason said, I present [the team] with something that I’ll leave you. It’s an acronym that’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respond every snap, play with passion, extreme effort, be committed and do it today.

Commodore fans all over the country were waiting to hear from Mason. Although he had been coaching at the collegiate and professional levels since 1994, he never served as a head coach until his arrival in Nashville. He gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see: passion, high expectations, and a whole lot of charisma. After spelling out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” just as Aretha Franklin did, he recited an absurd acronym like the back of his hand.

This was just the beginning.

Since then, Mason has proven himself as an excellent coach and an incredible personality to both the players and the fans; all he needed was a little time to adjust.

The Commodores have seen immense improvement from his first season as head coach. In the final regular season game of 2016, he led the team to a huge upset win over the 17th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. In doing so, the Vanderbilt Commodores clinched berth to its eighth bowl game since the team’s inception in 1890.

Meanwhile, he has continued to bless the players, fans, and media with his philosophical words, and has maintained his status as one of the most entertaining coaches in the SEC. Following that upset over Tennessee, Mason was about as ebullient as could be. That win was their sixth of the season, making them eligible for a bowl game.

He was interviewed by SEC Network on the field, and with Vanderbilt players celebrating in the background, he began by thrusting his arms above his head and yelling, Yeah! straight into the microphone. He was then asked about being considered for a bowl game, to which he said, “We wanted a victory. We didn’t want to sneak in the backdoor, we wanted to kick in the front door and walk right in so we can have some fun.”

Clearly, Mason wasn’t satisfied with being one of the exceptions that can make a bowl game with five wins and a losing record. He had a clear-cut goal in mind, and of course, an analogy to go along with it. While the five-win teams were sneaking in the backdoor, Mason wanted the Commodores to assert their dominance. In his own words, he wanted to remind Vanderbilt fans that “This is our state”. Of course, to accomplish that feat, they had to kick down the front door, cause a ruckus within this imaginary bowl game house, and most importantly, have fun.

A season later, Mason has coached the Commodores to an excellent 2-0 start, including a decisive 42-0 win over Alabama A&M this past weekend. On Tuesday, he addressed the media about that win and delivered one of the greatest “Mason-isms” yet.

The team is on an absolute tear as they head into a huge matchup against Kansas State, so it makes sense that Mason was fired up. Chris Harris, a sports anchor for WSMV, summed up Mason’s attitude in one tweet.

Mason’s phrasing was, to say the least, eccentric, but his message was clear: success, respect, and achievements don’t come to those who wait, but to those who work hard.

As if he had this answer prepared, memorized, and ready to recite, Mason began, “You get what you earn… Again, you better bring a hard hat and a lunch pail, a cup of coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because we’re going to get to work. So, if you miss your cup of coffee and you can’t get a sandwich that day, well then that’s on you. Stay up a little later, pack a couple of extra sandwiches and when you go out to work in the morning, make sure that you’re ready to go…”

Hats off to Coach Mason for maintaining a straight face throughout the entirety of the quote. Kansas State better believe that Coach Mason has packed a couple of extra sandwiches and is ready to go.