Versatile. Humble. Leader. Competitor. Athletic. Mature. Special. The adjectives to describe SportStars Magazine’s NorCal Football Player of the Year Mason Hurst are as plentiful as the skills that he possesses on and off the football field. “He’s just a special player and a special kid,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said of his three-year varsity star. “He is the most versatile player that I have had, and he does not come off of the field.” Hurst earned Player of the Year honors by excelling on both sides of the football while leading the Golden Eagles to their second consecutive CIF State Bowl Championship game. The senior hauled in 78 catches for 1,615 yards and 17 touchdowns to become the program’s all-time leading receiver. In his career as a Golden Eagle, Hurst had 159 receptions for 2,863 yards and 25 touchdowns. But offense was not Hurst’s perceived greatest on-field asset heading into his final high school football season. After a junior year in which he made 91 tackles along with nine interceptions for the CIF Division II-A champs, Hurst was viewed as a two-way talent who would eventually get more recruiting interest for his defense. That strength was again on display in 2016 as he made 75 tackles and added two interceptions while most opponents avoided throwing the ball his direction. Del Oro quarterback and longtime friend Stone Smartt looked Hurst’s way often all season. Despite being the primary target in the Golden Eagles’ passing game — and receiving double coverage at times — Hurst still burned opposing defenders, especially with the long ball. And he shined brightest when the stakes were highest. In Del Oro’s six postseason games this season, he had 34 catches and 10 TDs while increasing his yards-per-catch average more than 10 percent to a game-breaking 23.2-yard average for each playoff reception. “He was our main guy and he still put up great receiving numbers,” Taylor added. “He has the best hands that I’ve ever seen.” Hurst’s play on the field was a big reason Del Oro repeated as Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal champs, but Taylor praised Hurst’s other contributions as a captain and a senior leader. Hurst understood his role with his fellow seniors to help show the next group of Golden Eagles what Del Oro football is about, and pass on a championship legacy by example. “I hope that I am remembered for my attitude and effort,” Hurst said. “I like to think that I have a good attitude toward football and other players, and that I always put forth a great effort.” Recruiters loved Hurst’s effort and his statistics, but at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he knew that he might not get the offers a prototypical wide receiver might get. Although he was not sought after by Pac-12 programs and other Power 5 conference schools, the mature Hurst had a different perspective when evaluating where he would play and study at the next level. “I looked at it as a 40-year decision and not just a 4-year decision,” he said of evaluating offers. “I still have aspirations to play beyond college, but I was looking for a good fit with academics and athletics.” Hurst settled on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo which he said “checked all of the boxes” for football, academics and location. His versatility was a positive to the Mustangs and Hurst could see time on either side of the ball. “I told him to find a place to get a degree and make it work for you,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a great fit.” ✪ — Jim McCue
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