ATHENS, Ga.—Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” If that is true, it surely can be said without fear of contradiction, “As autumn approaches, the fancy of both young and old turn to thoughts of gridiron contests and football frenzy.”

One of the bastions of football legends and lore is Sanford Stadium in Athens, the home of the University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs. Every year as the new football season looms on the horizon “Dawg” fans dream of gridiron glory and a conference championship. This year many are hanging their hopes of an SEC title on new number-one quarterback Hutson Mason.

As a quarterback on Marietta’s Lassiter High School football team, Mason’s accomplishments were superlative. He was a 2009 Parade All-American and the Georgia Sports Writers’ Association All-Class Player of the Year.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that there were 1,086,627 athletes who played high school football in a recent year. To be an All-American amidst all those players is remarkable in itself.

Mason has had the distinction of playing for four years on the second team behind the stellar career of quarterback Aaron Murray, who set SEC career records in completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense.

However, while Mason has remarkable athletic ability, there is more to this UGA quarterback than finding receivers and hurling passes. He is a growing Christian with some bedrock convictions and a glowing testimony.

Mason explained, “I grew up in church (Woodstock, Ga., First) and was baptized at an early age, but it was not until college that I began to really understand God’s Word, mature in my faith and comprehend the significance of grace and sanctification.”

Matt Lawson, student pastor at Woodstock, First who observed Hutson’s spiritual pilgrimage throughout his high school years, said of him, “I remember watching Hutson’s first play at UGA as he threw a bullet for touchdown. My wife, who is a Gator fan, cheered like I’ve never heard her before or since. Hutson is obviously a great athlete, but we’re most proud of his consistent commitment to Jesus through the years.”

Mason commented, “I prayed about where to go to school, and the Lord led me to Georgia. However, when I realized I would be playing ‘second fiddle’ to Aaron Murray it injured my pride. But I knew it was not about what I wanted, but what God wanted for me. My pride told me to go somewhere else, and there was a point when I was almost ready to leave, but God led me to stay.

“God had to break my pride. Now I have come to the place where I am trying to deny myself daily and take up my cross to follow Jesus.

“Satan tempts me to be fearful of getting hurt, but God is teaching me to walk by faith. If I get hurt in the first game and can’t play for the rest of the season, it’s all right, because it is in God’s hands.”

Mason continued, “Now, I can honestly say that my primary reason for playing football at the University of Georgia is to glorify God. This may be the biggest platform I may ever have to honor the Lord, and I want to use whatever athletic ability He has given me for that purpose.

“There are plenty of temptations on a large university campus, but I wake up every morning denying self and giving myself anew to Christ. I must use this short, quick platform that God has given me to share my testimony.

“It will be good if people remember me as a good quarterback for the University of Georgia,” he said, “but I would prefer to be remembered as a man who used this unique opportunity to glorify God through the talents he had provided me. When I get to Heaven I realize that it won’t matter how many touchdown passes I have completed or how much success I have had on the football field, but how effectively I have represented Christ.”

UGA football coach Mark Richt told David Paschal of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Hutson is a great football player and a great person and a great leader for our team.”

Richt has also been quoted as saying, “The guys really respect him and trust him. He doesn’t have an issue of gaining everybody’s trust. That’s already there.”

Edward Ascoff of ESPN noted in the preseason, “Mason has the right mentality and will be an exciting player in 2014.” Mason admitted that he would like to be able to play football at the next level after his college career comes to a close, but once again, primarily because of the platform it would provide to bear his witness for Christ.

He exclaimed, “I can only pray that God will open doors and provide opportunities for me to honor His Son in ways I could never have imagined.”