Brian Mason grew up like plenty of kids in Zionsville – a rabid Colts fan who couldn't get enough of the Peyton Manning era. He had Manning's jersey in his closet, right next to Marvin Harrison's. He got to play youth football games at the RCA Dome.
But Mason took that childhood obsession with the Colts and, earlier this year, turned it into a job – special teams coordinator – with the team he grew up rooting for.
"I'm so thankful and blessed to be able to be here, fortunate every day I come into the office and have the Horseshoe on," Mason said shortly after being hired. "It's certainly something that I look at with great pride, and over the last week has been surreal and awesome."
Mason earned the Colts' special teams coordinator gig after a remarkable 2022 season as Notre Dame's special teams coordinator. The Irish blocked a college football-leading seven punts in 2022, including a stretch of five games with at least one blocked punt. It got to the point where Mason re-named Notre Dame's punt return unit as the "punt block" unit, emphasizing the impact they could have on field position before a punt was even returned.
"It's really a philosophy that's adapted over time," Mason said. "Four years ago, we were looking at the analytics of the punt return game — we were having a lot more success when we were a little bit more aggressive at affecting the punter. That had a higher probability of the punter shanking the punt or having worse hang time, which led us to get more return yards. So over the last four years, we've become a little bit more aggressive with our mentality on punt block.
"That's not to say, hey, our goal is to block every punt. Some of those bigger, explosive opportunities are coming and we're looking to finish and make the play, but we're really just looking to change field position any way we can. Having an aggressive mentality on the punt block team or the field goal block team to affect the punter or kicker, which a lot of other people maybe aren't as aggressive, can provide us some advantages in being able to flip the field and field position, and one of the biggest plays in the game — the punt/punt block battle that really affects a lot of field position."
Prior to his year at Notre Dame, Mason spent five seasons at Cincinnati as director of recruiting (2017) and special teams coordinator (2018-2021). He worked with plenty of talented players over those years – including a guy at Cincinnati who went from special teamer to standout wide receiver in Alec Pierce – and now in Indianapolis will be tasked with coaching a unit that just made an investment in kicker Matt Gay, who was signed as a free agent last month.
"We're really excited to get a dependable, proven kicker like Matt Gay, who's done it at the highest level, performed under pressure the last few years, has been over 90 percent making field goals including in a run to the Super Bowl," Mason said. "We're just really excited to able to bring him into our specialists room and our special teams units and to be able to lean on him in some big moments."