Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Derrick,

I’m you in about 35 years and I’m here to give you advice from the future. You’ll face a few trials and tribulations both in your personal life and on the field. You won’t be able to avoid these but with my help you’ll get through them and become a better person along the way.

You’re five years old growing up in Detroit and your father leaves the family. Do not hold a grudge against him for not being there. When you find him years later and he wants to become a part of your life, allow him back into it because time goes by very fast. Allow him to love your son Derrick and your daughter Bailee with the years that he has left. Don’t hold a grudge against him. Try to understand why he did what he did.

Also, when your mother gets remarried, accept her new husband. Accept Mr. Albert Winn for who he is. He’s a great man. Don’t hold grudges against him either. Don’t allow the pain from your father leaving to be reflected upon him. Allow him to be a father figure to you and your brothers and sisters.

During your sophomore year at Mumford High School, stay off the basketball court. Listen to coach Lynch when he tells you, “Basketball is not your sport. Football is your sport.” You are not the next Isiah Thomas. You will get hurt and that will derail you for a few months.

Prior to committing to Michigan State, recruiters will make a lot of promises to you. Don’t listen to them. When coach George Perles says that you will be starting from day one: don’t believe him. They’re trying to get you into their university because you are a hell of an athlete. Go in there with an open mind. Understand that you must work hard to become starter as a wide receiver, as a punt returner, as a kick returner.

Prior to the Michigan game, you will be told that you’ll be the kick and punt returner in the big game. You won’t. Don’t get so discouraged that you leave campus and miss meetings the next day. Your mom will come looking for you and she will drag your behind back to school. While you’re there, please, please, do not take your education lightly. There will be a time during your sophomore year that you’ll be put on academic probation, and we don’t want to get to that point again. Don’t allow everyone else to be an influence on what you do. You have a bigger goal.

During your first year in the NFL, you’re going to run into some things that will discourage you as well. You’re going to encounter players on your own team that are not willing to help you. Don’t let that get you down. Continue to move forward and learn. When things get tough, lean on your family.

Year three: You’re starting to really come into your own in the NFL and will make your first Pro Bowl team in 2000. You will also have your first child, Bailee Mason. Cherish the time you have with her because it goes by fast. Today she’s 15 years old and in high school, but those 15 years will go by so fast. You will enjoy them, but there are some things that you still miss as a father because you are either doing something for the game of football or working out to better yourself. Slow down and enjoy the people who are there for you, especially your baby girl, because she won’t be a baby for long. Three years after Bailee, you will have a son named Derrick James Mason II. Cherish him. He will be your road dog. Don’t get angry with him so quickly. Listen to him, be patient with him. He loves you more than anything in this world and you love him also. Today he’s 12 years old and in 7th grade. Allow those times you’re with them to be teaching times.

You’re going to go through a really tough time in your life after you retire. Your 16-year marriage to Marci will end in divorce. Continue to love Marci. Continue to try and be friends with her. She’s a smart and beautiful person. You guys had two beautiful children together, so always be mindful of the things that you two had together. Also, understand that you have to move forward in your life. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Four years after retirement your mother will pass away from cancer. This is the second major blow, as your sister, Alicia, passed away unexpectedly just a few years earlier. Don’t hold grief in. Talk to someone, because it will cause great pain years later and it all will resurface when mom passes away.

Later on you will meet a beautiful woman named Stacey. She will come into your life and be a godsend. Love her, cherish her, and take your time with her, because she’s not going anywhere. She loves you to death and she will prove her love to you each and every day. Make sure she gets along with your ex. That’s very critical.

Other than that, enjoy life. Love people. Serve God. Everything else will be OK.

I love you,