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Gekko Chats: Talking Washington Football and Life After Grad School with Mason Kelley

Mason Kelley carries on the Seattle tradition of having a Kelley tied into the local sports scene. But that is not all Mason has going on. We caught up with our long-time UWDP friend to get the scoop.

Mason Kelley is a writer and a photographer who freelances and covers UW Athletics
Mason Kelley is innovating in the world of digital creativity.
Kelley Creative Studios

It’s summertime in the city which usually brings with it two things: unbelievably inconvenient road construction and the doldrums of the offseason. Its times like these here at the UW Dawg Pound where we try to get by with a little help from our friends.

Today we welcome back Mason Kelley to the ‘Pound. Many of you are familiar with Mason as a young sports writer who has covered the Huskies from a variety of outposts including The Seattle Times,, and Mason has had the opportunity to “embed” inside the Huskies program over the past few years and has produced some of the most interesting inside-man looks at the program we’ve ever seen. We are fortunate to have young man of his talents associated with the program and he joins us now to talk a little shop.

Welcome, Mason Kelley.

Since we last spoke, much has changed for you in your life. You completed a master's degree in Communications & Digital Media from the UW and became an entrepreneur. Tell us a little about Kelley Creative Studio and how you got started with that business.

Things have been a little wild the past two years. I went back to school to figure out where I fit in the evolving landscape of content creation and, along the way, discovered I had a passion for photography.

So, I basically invested a lot of money to realize I need to spend more money on camera gear. Not the smartest way to do things from a financial perspective, but it’s hard to put a price tag on working toward something you love.

Thanks for noticing the Kelley Creative Studio. It’s a side project aimed at helping me bring in enough freelance work to put toward my graduate school student loans.

With my wife, Tenille, handling the graphic design work, we offer website and logo design, in addition to photography work and pretty much anything else our clients need.

I’m hopeful the project will continue to grow and become something substantial but, for now, we’re still in the infant stages and always in the market for new clients.

In addition to your new company, you continue to be very active in the UW Athletic Department. What kinds of changes are you sensing under the new direction of Jen Cohen?

New leadership always brings change. And, the longer Jen Cohen is the athletic director, the more the department will become a reflection of her vision. However, an athletic department in a Power Five conference is such a large undertaking, changes will be gradual.

I can say this, on the day Cohen was introduced she told me a story about she once wrote a letter to Don James. In that letter, she informed the legendary coach that she planned to one day become the school’s football coach.

Over time, that vision changed. It became her dream to become Washington’s athletic director. When someone spends that much time working toward a goal, the passion required to achieve it is something that can inspire and motivate others and I think her leadership will benefit the department moving forward.

You focus on shining light on aspects of the program that few people would otherwise ever get a chance to see. Can you talk about a particular "below the radar" aspect of the program that you find especially interesting or compelling?

The longer Chris Petersen is at Washington, the easier it is to see his vision for the program. I have a ton of respect for the way he goes about his business. There are two things that really stand out.

No. 1, to get a group of athletes who have worked so hard to get to this point as football players, competing in the classroom the same way they compete on the field, is impressive. The Huskies want to be on the program’s 3.0 board. It’s a point of pride to be a part of that group.

It isn’t easy to get that many athletes thinking that way and Petersen has done a great job of making that a priority.

No. 2, it was interesting to sit on the program’s “Real Life Wednesday” meetings. The Huskies brought in experts to speak on topics ranging from domestic violence and rape to personal finances.

The thing most interesting about these meetings was the way the players paid attention. Sure, they were required to be there, but the team went out of its way to be engaged and each speaker I talked with left impressed with importance the Huskies placed on each meeting.

The importance Petersen has placed on success off the field is impressive, so I’ve tried to highlight those stories.

You've never been a hard core editorialist, but that doesn't mean that you don't have an opinion. What are your expectations for UW on the field this season?

I’m always curious about how programs fit into the national conversation and, when programs start to trend upward, well, they can really rise in a hurry, especially if there is a pedigree of past success.

Washington seems to be trending upward at a rapid rate and it’s easy to see why. The Huskies were young last season and have key returners coming back at pivotal positions.

The talent is there to have a great year. I’m excited. There are a lot of great kids in the program and they have some interesting stories I’m anxious to tell. But I’m not going to make any bold predictions. You’re right, that’s never really been my style.

Last question. Do you miss the faux hawk? What kind of 'do are you sporting now and, importantly, does your father approve?
Mason Kelley
Mason Kelley circa 2014
Kelley Creative Studios

The faux hawk is something I go back to from time to time. But it’s hard to maintain. I was on the sidelines at the Cactus Bowl two years ago and some fans were calling me Kenny Powers, so I went away from it for a while.

I’ve never really asked my dad if he approves, but I’ve been doing different things to my hair for so long, I don’t think he notices anymore.

Big thanks to Mason Kelley for his time. If you are interested in learning more about Mason and Tenille’s company, Kelley Creative Services, head on over to his website. If you’d like to see some of his latest work writing The Details over at GoHuskies, just click here. As always, don’t forget to follow Mason on Twitter. He puts out a ton of must-read stuff (along with the occasional Indiana Pacers content).

Husky fans: I’d like to capture your thoughts. If you have any follow up questions you’d like to put to Mason, drop them in the comments thread and I’ll circle back with him on those.

Go Dawgs