But after Aaron Murray tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee last Saturday against Kentucky, Mason will have to get acclimated to being the center of attention — and quickly.
It will come on the home field of Georgia’s most hated rival — Georgia Tech — and in front of a national-TV audience.
“It’s something I haven’t adapted to yet,” the former Lassiter High School star said.
One of the reasons, Mason said, is because his teammates have to get used to a new voice in the huddle.
“It still feels like Aaron’s team,” Mason said. “We’re not just going to drop him after everything he’s done, so it’s going to take some time.
“It’s a little awkward. I’m the offensive leader of the team now. But not only am I expected to lead on the field — I need to be a vocal leader.”
It’s a role Mason used to know well.
At Lassiter High School, Mason rewrote the Georgia high school record book, throwing for 4,560 yards and 54 touchdowns as a senior. Twice that final season, he broke the single-game passing record — first with 545 yards and six touchdowns against Milton, then a 552-yard, eight-touchdown performance against South Gwinnett in the state playoffs.
Mason still has four of the top 15 passing games in state history.
Those kinds of numbers usually allow a player to see time early in a college career, but when Mason got to Georgia, he found himself behind Murray, a quarterback on his way to having one of the most prolific careers in Southeastern Conference history.
That’s why, when Mason takes the field Saturday in Atlanta, it will be 4 years and 3 days since he was last in the huddle as a starting quarterback.
There are some things he is looking forward to.
“You forget the small things,” he said. “You forget about the emotion, the excitement and the jitters. Those are the things I missed the most. Even getting hit or laid out — you forget how that feels.”
After completing 13 of 19 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky last Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 202-pound Mason said he feels ready to move into the starting role, but he expects the juices to get flowing as kickoff nears.
“The closer we get, I’ll start to get more excited and pumped up,” Mason said. “There will definitely be great emotion involved. But when I’m playing, I’m usually cool, calm and collected. I’m going to not get over-ecstatic, and I’m going to try to make it as simple a process as I can.”
For the year, Mason is 24-of-35 for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. In his two-plus seasons as a Bulldog — surrounding last fall’s redshirt year — he has completed 62 percent of his passes (51 of 82) for 705 yards, five touchdowns and the one interception.
After watching every one of his plays since Mason first arrived in Athens as a freshman in 2010, Georgia coach Mark Richt and former Bulldogs quarterback Eric Zeier both feel Mason is ready.
“He’s been through a lot of games — a lot of game plans — and he’s played a little bit along the way,” Richt said. “(I’m sure) there’ll be some excitement, but he knows he’s ready. We have faith and confidence in Hutson that he’ll do a good job.”
Zeier, the last quarterback from Cobb County to play for the Bulldogs, understands what it means to make his debut as the starter.
The former Marietta High School star, who played for Georgia from 1991-94, said off the field is where things will change for Mason the most, now that he is the face of Georgia football. And learning that fact now will benefit him as he heads into next season as the likely incumbent.
“It’s a different kind of pressure,” said Zeier, now a member of the Georgia radio crew. “What he will experience will be the ability to feel the weight of Bulldog Nation. As the starter, all eyes are now on you. I don’t know if I can put enough emphasis on how big it is.”
Mason agrees with Zeier, saying he got the first taste of that Tuesday. Despite being a communication studies major who eventually wants to go into broadcast journalism, Mason said his classes did not help with easing his way into the spotlight.
“No. No. Let me repeat that — no,” he said about his first encounter with the media day as the Bulldogs’ starting QB.
Mason said there was no way to accurately compare what he was doing Tuesday to what he was doing last week at this time.
“My schedule is booked. I’ve been doing media like crazy,” Mason said after talking with 15 to 20 media outlets. “I haven’t done media (before), except an occasional interview.”
His every-day life has changed, too.
“People want your attention,” Mason said. “People I haven’t talked to in years (have reached out) with calls and texts.”
Zeier said Mason will likely be relieved once game time finally comes because all he will have to worry about is football. He also said Mason has done an exceptional job in preparation and that he will be excited to see the fellow Cobb County native play.
“I’ll see him before the game and wish him luck,” Zeier said. “I want to see him play well because I’ve walked in his shoes. His nerves will go away two series into the game and I expect him to play well.
“He’s earned it. He deserves it. It’s his time.”