By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
For the past three years, Enid Plainsmen senior offensive guard Mason Dillard, and his 10-year-old half-brother Aaron, have been living in a foster home — and he couldn’t be happier. He will tell you it’s the best thing that could have happened in his life.
“My foster dad, David Bingham, really takes great care of us,” Dillard said Monday after practice as the Plainsmen begin preparations for their last football game of the season at home against Sand Springs. “I’m just blessed he found us and took us in.”
Dillard and his younger brother were removed by Oklahoma Department of Human Services when his mother and stepfather were arrested. Both parents currently are doing significant prison time.
“My parents had gotten into some drug trouble,” Dillard said. “My stepdad was making explosives. It was a bad situation. I thank God we got removed. My stepdad was a bad influence on us.”
The first stop for Dillard was a temporary placement.
“We were taken away and were placed in a shelter by family services,” Dillard said. “It’s a 30-day shelter home and then after that you get shipped off to wherever DHS places you, but with myself and my little brother’s great behavior, they kept us for 90 days and the ladies there got in contact with David Bingham, and he was a great guy and decided to take us in. He’s also my youth pastor (at Your Family Church).”
Dillard’s foster family also includes two other members of the Enid football team, junior twin brothers Raheem and Saheed Mitchell.
Dillard, 17, says he has used his experience as a motivating factor in athletics and in school.
“It gives you fire and gives me motivation,” he said, sounding mature beyond his years, “going from what I used to be to what I am now,” he said. It also made him grow up faster having to care for his younger half-brother.
While Dillard has had to have perseverance in order to stay on the right track, it has also paid off for him in his athletic endeavors.
He went out for basketball in his freshman season and didn’t make the team. In fact, he did not play any sports his first two years of high school. He went out for football last year after assistant coach Kyle Hilterbran spotted him in the hallway at school and suggested he try out for the team. He made the team, but did not play and turned to wrestling in his junior year to improve his chances at football.
The senior is listed at 6-4, 275 pounds, but that has fluctuated quite a bit over the past year.
“I was 350 (pounds) last year, but at the end of the year I was 310,” he said. “I came into wrestling and dropped down to 259, and then bumped up some more in the weight room in the offseason, and during Summer Pride.
Dillard excelled in wrestling in his first year in the sport, competing at heavyweight for Enid, and lost only one home dual, and nearly made it to state.
“I felt like I had been wrestling for years,” Dillard said. “My wrestling career took off ... and it’s helped me tremendously in football.”
Enid head football coach Steve Chard said Dillard “worked his butt off” in the offseason Summer Pride program.
Dillard said he came out this season with the hope of just doing his best and getting a starting position, but had to go through some adjustments, which he did with the guidance of assistant coaches Nathan Vogel and Trent Holland.
“I was a defensive tackle, then a quick tackle on offense, and I got bumped down to defense and I was a little upset,” he said.
Dillard has settled in primarily at strong guard on the offensive line saying he “took the job, doing the right thing. I love it.”
He especially enjoys seeing Raheem Mitchell — who has rushed for 1,020 yards this season — scoring or gaining yards off the line’s blocks.
“After we get a touchdown, it’s a great feeling,” Dillard said. “Whenever we’re blocking and I see Raheem to the right coming through a gap or making plays or Raeshaan (Finley), or whoever, it’s a great feeling. I love my job.”
And while Dillard is quick to point to others’ accomplishments, he also has a personal favorite moment when he forced and recovered a fumble against Ponca City in Enid’s 56-28 win over the Wildcats on Oct. 17.
While the season has not gone as hoped, with the 3-6 Plainsmen out of the playoffs, Dillard sees a lot of positives that have come out of this season.
“The team development, the bonding, is really great,” he said. “We give each other (a hard time), but all together the relationship between each guy is tremendous and wonderful. I’m thankful to have them. You know, we didn’t make the playoffs, but as a family we’re tight and I’m thankful for that.”
Dillard said he keeps in touch with his mom and stepdad by writing to them in prison.
“My mom is actually the head of her church in prison,” he said. “She’s actually turned her life around. My stepdad is making some big steps, but I want to see when he gets out if he’s changed.”
Dillard, who besides lunch, said he enjoys trigonometry in school, because “it’s tough work and it just gets my brain going and as soon as I get it down, it just clicks.”
He hopes to attend college and to walk-on in football and/or wrestling, but said he mainly wants to “pursue a career that helps me with a great income, so I can raise a family.”
Dillard also hopes to leave a legacy for future Plainsmen.
“As a senior, I want to leave an impact on the younger guys,” he said. “I want them to be great guys when they become seniors and I want them to be confident and go out and make the playoffs.”
In addition to his foster family, Dillard appears genuinely grateful for the role his teammates, his “brothers” have also played in helping him maintain a productive and positive path during a tumultuous time.
“I love my brothers,” he said. “They’re an amazing group of guys.”