Life-saving experiences stick with Centre gridder

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023


Contributing columnist

It has been an unforgettable senior year at Centre College for Zack Mason but not for the same reasons he probably thought it would be.

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Yes, it was his final season playing football and getting one step closer to graduate school and becoming a physical therapist.

However, no way could the South Oldham High School graduate ever imagine not once, but twice he would be involved in a life-saving situation.

The most recent came in March when he was on spring break in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

“It was our last full beach day and about 20 of us were on the beach. About four or five of us were barely out in the water and we heard somebody yelling, turned our heads and about a 100 yards out two girls were getting torn up by the water,” Mason said. “Me and (football teammate) Cole Littleton took off swimming in a full sprint.”

The offensive lineman estimated it took between 60 and 90 seconds for them to reach the girls he thought were about 13 or 14 years old. His initial thought was just to “get out there and get hold of them” as fast as he could.

“From where we were, they were getting thrown under the waves and tossed around,” he said. “We both grabbed a girl. The one I grabbed was conscious but crying. She was in shock. The girl Cole had was not as responsive.

“We started swimming in. Once we got to where we could walk, I looked up and could see the whole beach running to the shore. Police trucks, rescue vehicles were coming. It really hit me then how special the situation was.

“We got them back to shore and put them in chairs there. The first responders took over. We hung around a little bit and the father of the girl I carried shook my hand and had tears in his eyes.”

Mason said red flags were posted on the beach to signal dangerous conditions but he was able to get through the current okay.

“I did swim team as a kid growing up and that probably helped me,” the Centre senior said.

He thought his football training also helped.

“As an offensive lineman, I am used to putting someone else before you and doing what the team needs,” he said. “I just trusted my reactions.”

He said the first thing he did after he left the beach was “get a drink because my adrenaline was really flowing” and he was a bit overwhelmed.

Mason had another heroic experience about six months earlier when the football team was on its way to Rhodes College in Memphis for a football game Oct. 1. The Colonels stopped at Vanderbilt in Nashville to practice on Sept. 30 and went to the university cafeteria for lunch.

“It takes time to get 80 people through the food line. We were just putting our plates down and getting our utensils and drinks when a girl came up holding her throat,” Mason said.

Patric Edwards, a former Centre player now attending Vanderbilt, asked her if she was choking and she indicated she was.

“I ran behind her and got ready to do the Heimlich (a maneuver to aid choking victims),” Mason said. “He (Edwards) asked me if I knew what I was doing. I said, ‘I have got to try.’ I had learned the Heimlich in high school and got it out on the first try when she coughed up a huge piece of cantaloupe.”

Mason an economics/finance major, said he has wondered often since the beach incident why he had been put in both situations and what made him qualified to help both victims.

“The beach situation with those two young kids and the father shaking my hand was really emotional,” he said. “I was just going about my normal life both times and I have no idea why I was lucky enough or whatever to be in those spots twice.”