What are Derek Mason’s ties to the state of Arizona?

STILLWATER — From his Phoenix-area home, Kevin Miniefield will be watching closely when 10th-ranked Oklahoma State hosts Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

In a match that features his best friend on one side and his beloved alma mater on the other, Miniefield will shoot for a very specific outcome.

“I hope we win 7-6,” said Miniefield, who played cornerback at Arizona State in the late 1980s and is now associate director of Sun Devil Letterwinners, a youth engagement program. alumni that maintains the links between the university and its former athletes.

Once upon a time, Miniefield’s best friend would have shot for a win at Arizona State as well.

But those days are nearly 40 years in the rearview mirror for Derek Mason — the 52-year-old Phoenix native who is now in his first season as Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator.

“I grew up as an Arizona State fan,” Mason said last week after his first game as a Cowboy. “But you know, that was a long time ago. I’ve lived a lot of life since I was 12, 13.

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Mason’s ASU passion came naturally, and not just by proximity, although most Phoenix kids his age — including Miniefield — were instantly drawn to the Sun Devils. At the time, the NFL Cardinals were still in St. Louis. The Arizona Diamondbacks in baseball and the Phoenix Coyotes in hockey were just dreams.

Phoenix had the Suns in the NBA and Arizona State in Tempe, a thriving suburb east of the city. Sun Devil football was the pinnacle in the minds of many boys growing up in Phoenix in the 1970s and 1980s.

Beyond that, Mason’s father, Isaac Mason Jr., and his uncle on his mother’s side, Calvin Demery, had both played for legendary Arizona State coach Frank Kush, whose Sun Devil home ground Stadium now bears the name.

“Calvin Demery was a local legend,” Miniefield said. “You heard a lot about him, because he was so well known in the valley.”

Fresh out of Camelback High School, Derek Mason was recruited from northern Arizona by head coach Larry Kentera, who had been the defensive coordinator under Kush when Mason’s father was at ASU.

Mason left his fandom behind, but his ties to Arizona State remain strong. And perhaps the most present connection is that of Miniefield.

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Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Derek Mason has had close ties to Arizona State since growing up in Phoenix.

The two met at Camelback High School in the mid-1980s. Mason was in the second grade when Miniefield arrived in the first grade.

Both became defensive backs in college but played all-court for Camelback.

And both were also solid basketball players.

“Believe it or not, as small as Derek was, he was a really good rebounder,” Miniefield said. “And he was a terror in defense. He had five fouls to use and he used four.

In sports, Mason and Miniefield’s friendship grew stronger.

“In high school, you have friends who inspire you with what they do and how they present themselves,” Miniefield said. “Derek was a young, ‘Yes sir/Yes ma’am’ type guy, and just a hard worker. He was probably one of the first friends I knew who had a job, working at Jack in the Box.

Miniefield was named state high school basketball player of the year and received a scholarship offer from Arizona, about 110 miles from Tucson. But he opted for football at ASU.

Mason was already in northern Arizona, located in Flagstaff, about 140 miles north of Phoenix.

But the bond built at Camelback remained.

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“We always stayed close,” Miniefield said. “He would go down to ASU or I would go up to NAU and he would take me there. That’s where I met his wife, LeighAnne, when they started dating.

“We have always remained close throughout this period of our lives.”

Mason was at Miniefield on NFL Draft Day in 1993, after Miniefield ended a stellar career as a cornerback for the Sun Devils.

They waited together, but the phone didn’t ring.

“I was disappointed – like everyone else, you think you’re going to go higher than you actually do,” Miniefield said. “But Derek was right by my side.

“I needed to get out of the house, so he took me to a nine-hole golf course by ASU. We got out and hit a few balls. That was before cellphones, so I went back to home and my dad was like, ‘Hey, we tried to reach you.’ Detroit recruited you. I didn’t even know.

“But Derek was with me in those kinds of times.”

Both men were in each other’s marriages. They regularly take summer vacations together. Mason and his wife are godparents to one of Miniefield’s daughters.

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Miniefield expects to speak to Mason at some point before Saturday’s game, although he knows what it’s like to be on the wrong side of an ASU matchup with a Mason defense.

They met twice when Mason was at Stanford, and the Sun Devils lost both.

So Miniefield are hoping for their ideal scenario on Saturday, the 7-6 result.

“First and foremost, I always want us to get the ‘W’, don’t I?” said Miniefield. “But I always shoot for Derek and his defense.”

But in reality, the final score won’t matter to Miniefield.

“Honestly, Derek is like a brother more than a friend,” Miniefield said. “We are able to share with each other and just be ourselves.

“He’s just authentic and genuine in himself. And he’s caring. He was always a guy that it wasn’t all about him. When you are with him, he gives you his time and attention. He’s just a real individual.

OSU vs. Arizona State

TO START UP: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater (ESPN2)