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Mason Rudolph's journey from high school tight end to big-time QB prospect

Gina Mizell Modified: June 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm •  Published: June 14, 2013

New Oklahoma State quarterback commitment Mason Rudolph certainly looks like the prototypical Division I college prospect.

Good size (6-4, 220). Strong arm. Enough mobility to make plays outside the pocket when necessary. Experience in a system that is identical to the one he will run at OSU.

But three years ago, it didn’t exactly look like Rudolph would be in this position.

Rudolph began his high school career at Westminster Catawba Christian, the local private school in Rock Hill, S.C., playing … tight end.

Before his freshman year, though, Rudolph attended the annual Air Raid camp held by Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson. Rudolph, of course, was there to work on his throwing ability, not his blocking or catching ability as a tight end.

And Richardson quickly took notice.

“He had shot up to 6-1, 6-2,” Richardson recalled. “He was throwing the thing around.”

Rudolph’s family lived in Northwestern’s boundaries. So Richardson approached Rudolph’s mother in the parking lot one day after camp and asked if they would consider letting Rudolph transfer to Northwestern to play quarterback.

“She shot it down immediately,” Richardson said. “(She said), ‘We’re private school people. My husband’s on the school board at the private school.’ Then I talked to the dad and he was the same way.”

Richardson had just one request.

“Look, do me a favor,” Richardson told Rudolph’s parents. “The next 15 weeks, pay attention to the papers. If anything changes, give me a call.”

Richardson knew he had a stud quarterback that season in Justin Worley, who is now pegged to be Tennessee’s starter in 2013. And Worley put up gaudy numbers — 5,315 passing yards and a state-record 64 touchdowns while leading Northwestern to an undefeated season and state championship.

Worley was then named the National Gatorade Player of the Year — the first player from South Carolina to earn that honor in any sport — and was flown out to Los Angeles for the ESPY’s.

A couple days after that, Richardson got a phone call from Rudolph’s father, Brett.

“We sat down and talked,” Richardson said, “And (Brett) said, ‘You think (Mason) can be good?’ I said, ‘Not only can he be good. He can be the next one.’”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rudolph transferred to Northwestern for the 2011-12 school year and immediately became the starter as a sophomore. After some ups and downs in his first year behind center — he passed for 2,619 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions — the quarterback improved dramatically in Year 2. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 41 touchdowns and just seven interceptions as a junior and led Northwestern to the state championship game.

And now Rudolph has committed to a college program known for its explosive, quarterback-centric offense.

Looks like Coach was right all along. The decision to transfer — and switch positions — has paid off big-time for Rudolph.

“We threw him in the fire his sophomore year,” Richardson said. “He struggled early but got better, and last year he just blew it up. And that’s where we got to today.”