McALESTER — McAlester senior Mason Bumphus has always lived in McAlester. He started playing flag football in the fourth grade, and during the fall he’d spend every Friday night he could at Hook Eales Stadium watching the Buffaloes.
Chris Patterson, one of Bumphus’ cousins, played inside receiver for the Buffs and graduated a year before Bumphus got to McAlester High School. An inside receiver himself, Bumphus said he definitely took a move or two from his older cousin, who graduated in 2009.
“He was my idol,” Bumphus said of Patterson on Thursday. “That’s why I even wanted to play. You could say he was my inspiration to suit up.”
A product of McAlester’s public schools system, Bumphus played for the Jr. Buffs at Puterbaugh. His football career hit a major stumbling block at the end of his eight-grade football season, however, when he fractured four vertebrae while working out.
“I had to wear a back brace around for like six months,” Bumphus said.
“I almost didn’t come back and play football.”
Back injuries take a lot of time to rehab, and Bumphus’ cost him his entire freshman year. It’s a slow rehab process, too, with numerous “boring, little exercises,” as Bumphus called them, designed to increase strength and mobility a bit at a time.
“Freshman year, I had to film (games and practices), and that was probably the worst part, having to watch all my friends play and not being able to be out there with them,” Bumphus said.
Bumphus finished his rehab in time for sophomore year, when he made varsity. Always a two-way player but originally a safety, Bumphus moved to cornerback for his junior year.
“Safety is a lot more reads,” Bumphus said.
“You have a lot more responsibilities as a safety. Corner is more of ‘don’t let them get behind you.’”