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Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is 2-1 against Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on Kirby Smart: ‘He’s like a brother’

HOOVER, Ala. — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason spent time together on Nike’s annual coaches’ trip this summer, and the two apparently became very close.

“To me, he’s like a brother,” Mason said Thursday at the SEC Media Days on Thursday. “You meet people sometimes and you realize, man, that you got a lot in common, some of the goals. You see football the same way. You see life the same way.”

The Bulldogs and Commodores will get their annual clash out of the way quickly this season, opening at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 31. in Nashville at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Georgia has won the past two meetings with the Commodores handily,  45-14 in 2017, and 41-13 last season.

But in 2016, Mason and Vandy came to Sanford Stadium and stunned the Bulldogs with a 17-16 win.

That upset surely earned a measure of respect from Smart and his players, if Mason’s impressive resume hadn’t already done so.

Prior to taking over as Vanderbilt’s head coach leading into the 2014 season, Mason had worked as Stanford’s defensive coordinator 2011-13 and defensive backs coach (2010).

Before that, Mason was a defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-2009.

Like Smart, Mason was a defensive back in college, playing cornerback at Northern Arizona from 1989-1992 before launching his coaching career.

Smart and Mason will surely resume their friendship after the team’s opener, perhaps even sharing scouting reports.

Mason explained that he and Smart, both known as defensive gurus during their previous coordinator stints at Stanford and Alabama, have similar philosophies.

I love Kirby, we have a lot of defensive background, a lot of defensive history, a lot of things that we like that are very similar,” Mason said. “We had a chance to spend some quality time with the Nike trip down to Mexico.”

The similarities, however, go beyond football.

“All you’re trying to do is move young men from where they are to where they need to be, and that’s what our conversations were about,” Mason said. “Our wives got a chance to spend time with one another. I truly believe that was an enjoyable time for me because in this profession, rarely do you get a chance, especially with guys in your conference, to spend that type of time away from everybody where you can talk about ball.

“But really, all things life, all things children, all things opportunities to gain, philosophical wisdom and understand people better.”