Former Park Vista standout Tre Mason declares for NFL draft

Tre Mason’s rise will take him all the way to the NFL.

Few college football players in 2013 improved their stock like Mason, which is why the former Park Vista High star announced Thursday he will forgo his senior year at Auburn to enter the April NFL draft.

“It’s been my dream since I was young, and I’m a dream chaser,” Mason told reporters during a news conference. “I’m just trying to make a dream into a reality.”

Mason, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound tailback from Boynton Beach, was the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting. His touchdown run with 79 seconds remaining in Monday’s BCS Championship nearly gave Auburn the national title.

Another hero from that game, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, is still mulling his decision, a source close to his family told The Post. Benjamin, a former Glades Central star, made the winning touchdown reception with 13 seconds left. FSU tight end Nick O'Leary, from North Palm Beach and Dwyer High, said he will stay in school.

Also Thursday, Seminoles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and running back James Wilder Jr. announced plans to enter the draft, while receiver Rashad Green, running back Karlos Williams, offensive tackle Cam Erving, guards Josue Matias and Tre’ Jackson said they are staying. Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo also said he will return to school, while his Hurricanes teammate, linebacker Denzel Perryman, has not made up his mind.

Draft-eligible players have until Wednesday to decide.

Mason received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, but many analysts have him higher.

CBSSports.com rates him the No. 49 player overall, the No. 2 running back and a second-round pick. DraftInsider.net analyst Tony Pauline has Mason as a second-rounder. After Mason’s decision, NFLDraftScout.com’s Matt Miller tweeted, “Will be a race between him and (Ohio State’s) Carlos Hyde for my top RB spot.”

Benjamin, a 6-foot-5, 234-pound Belle Glade native, was given a first-round grade from the Advisory Board and is projected as a late first-round pick by CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated. Pauline sees him as a third-round pick.

While Benjamin, who had 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns on 54 catches as a junior, drew raves from analysts with his gigantic hands and ability to box out defenders, Mason’s shifty, stocky running style powered Auburn’s title run.

He had 164 yards and a touchdown the Iron Bowl against Alabama. He set SEC title game records with 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri. He set BCS Championship marks with 195 yards on 34 carries against Florida State. In his final eight games, Mason averaged more than 28 carries and 162 yards.

In Pasadena, he caught a 42-yard pass for a touchdown and his 37-yard touchdown run put Auburn ahead 31-27 with 1:19 remaining. On that play, his last in a Tigers uniform, he reached 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns for the season, both school records. He finished his career with 2,979 yards (sixth in Auburn history) and 32 touchdowns (fourth).

Out of Park Vista, Mason was rated a four-star prospect and a two-time runner-up for county player of the year, but always wondered why the state’s big three — Miami, Florida State or Florida — weren’t jockeying for his services. LSU and Michigan saw him as a cornerback. Ohio State and Penn State felt they had enough running backs.

Auburn, coming off a 2010 national title, snatched him up. In his first college game, Sept. 3, 2011 against Utah State, he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

Long before that, Park Vista coach Brian Dodds remembers watching Mason, then a 160-pound freshman, out-leap his teammates by 2 feet during plyometric drills. Mason’s teammates called him “Superman.” Dodds’ expectations were lofty then, but Mason has exceeded them.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Dodds said. “The other night, he was impossible to bring down. He’s turned out better than we could have ever imagined.”