Every one – and there were perhaps 100 in total – got a hello, a handshake, a hug and a Happy Easter, before his winsome smile beamed into the camera, with the equally beaming recipient right alongside.
Then he’d get around to signing his new book for the guest, inscribing a long, thought-out, individualized message to accompany his flair of a signature…all the while chatting about cars, movies, faith, football, kids’ college choices, whatever, always with laughs aplenty.
He and his friend, new or old, would then part with another hug and Happy Easter, and words of spiritual encouragement and love.
“I feel blessed that we’ve had so many come out, a lot of friends,” said former Washington Redskins linebacker, professional athletic trainer and Loudoun resident Eddie Mason – who now puts “published author” on his résumé at CoachMason.org.
On April 4, Mason and his wife Sonya graced Family Christian Bookstore near Dulles Town Center in Sterling, distributing and signing copies of Eddie’s book, Training For the Tough Game of Life. Mason, a devoutly Christian man, subtitled his publication Guidance and Help From God’s Playbook.
Many of Mason’s visitors already knew him – but that’s not surprising, considering he knows pretty much everyone. He and Sonya moved to Sterling when Eddie, previously with Jacksonville, signed with the Redskins in 1999. When injuries derailed his playing career four years later, the Mason family opted to stay right where they were – even if it wasn’t exactly Jacksonville weather.
“I came from 85 [degrees], and when we first got here, it was cold and snowing,” joked Mason, a self-described country boy from Siler City, N.C. “But we saw a lot of needs right here, a mission that we could fulfill, and that God wanted us to stay here.
“I’m so glad that we did.”
The stream of visitors came from around Loudoun and beyond, including one couple who drove from Frederick, Md., to get an autographed copy.
Mason penned the 253-page volume because, in his words, “these are real experiences from my life and from my journey with Sonya, and we wanted to put those experiences out there as spiritual lessons about humility, perseverance, faith, forgiveness.”
It is not a sports book. It is a book about life, written by a man whose livelihood has been devoted to sports but whose life, he said, is devoted to a higher purpose. It is intended to be an inspirational tome, as much about spirit as it is about sport.
“Vulnerability,” said Mason, encapsulating in a single word the overarching theme of his treatise. That sentiment is immediately visible in the first anecdote the book relates, which Mason described:
“I grew up in an abusive household. I was five years old at my grandmother’s house, and I’m trying to save my mom from my father’s hand. Then he grabs me.”
Mason paused, then concluded, “and the story continues from there.”
So begins Eddie Mason’s story of resilience, humility and godliness – a story he’s still living, catapulted from a single incident of long ago.
“One defining moment in your life can cause and create this cycle of events that lasts for the rest of your life.”
Packed with personal remembrances and Biblical scripture, and forwarded with supportive quotes from football celebrities Troy Vincent and Mack Brown, the book is an effort to tell anyone who will listen that “You know what? It’s gonna be okay,” Mason indicated.
“Every decision we make is something I call a ‘game-time decision.’ Every time we make a decision, it helps determine the outcome of the ultimate game, which is the game of life, the biggest game we could ever play,” Mason said. “I wrote this book because I feel like we should share the good in our lives, but that we still make mistakes. I want to show in this book that I’ve made some good choices and some really bad ones, but I learned from each one of those by God’s grace.”
Mason trains with some of the current Redskin players, and still holds relationships with several Redskins officials. When word of his new publication reached the team’s public relations braintrust, Mason found himself invited by the producers of Redskins Nation to join host Larry Michael for the February 12 episode.
Jay Ramey, a 29-year-old Ashburn man who played basketball at West Springfield High School before going to Old Dominion University, had no idea he’d be meeting a former professional athlete when he and his grandmother went out for a leisurely trip to the bookstore.
Finding Eddie Mason, a man of athletics and principles, there with his new book was a fortuitous event – not only for himself, but for grandma Neva Littlejohn.
“I’m so glad. I’m just very happy,” she said of the chance encounter. “In my heart I want all my grandchildren to know the Lord, and this book will do exactly that.”
Is she going to read the book? Before she could finish her affirmative nod, her grandson interjected.
“Oh yeah, we’re all gonna read it. We’re gonna pass it around the family,” said Ramey, smilingly brandishing the crisp paperback he’d just bought.
Ramey had no knowledge of Mason before the two men met at the book signing. They exchanged information, and Ramey intends to contact Mason for some business-oriented discussion. Just one more local person that Eddie Mason knows, and can now share spiritual guidance with.
“The key factor for anything in life is relationships,” Mason said. “It’s so precious to see a young man with his grandma. The fact that they came over and we talked, you know, made me feel real good.”
An enduring relationship with Mason has long existed for Sterling man Tony DelSignore. He and his wife Katie made it out that afternoon to snag a copy and enjoy in-depth conversation with Mason.
DelSignore has known Mason since 2010, when DelSignore was a student at George Mason University looking to enter the field of sports training. After a three-month internship, Mason hired DelSignore as an assistant. Their professional relationship lasted a year and a half, while their friendship continues.
Now in full-time sales while teaching physical fitness to kids on the side, DelSignore said he still uses spiritual strategies Mason taught him. He’s already read the book, and it’s next on Katie’s reading list.
“I’m so impressed with how vulnerable Eddie was [in the book],” he said. “He’d been open with me about certain areas, but putting it into a book is, I think, very brave of him…. He just wants to help other people, and that’s why I support him the way that I do.”
Katie already knows her husband’s former employer, but said she was eager to learn more.
“I respect and love Eddie, but I’m looking forward to reading how the Lord brought him to the man he is today,” she said.
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S. Rufner
Special to VivaLoudoun