With his playing career over, Mason Zandi wasn’t ready to give up being around football.
The former South Carolina offensive lineman is getting his coaching career started at his alma mater, Chapin High. Zandi is working with the offensive line for the Eagles, who just wrapped up spring practice last week and begin summer workouts this week.
“I have always wanted to coach when I was playing. I thought I could enjoy it, and I’m fortunate that Chapin gave me the opportunity,” Zandi said. “It means the world to me to go back to a community that has given so much to me and been so supportive.”
Chapin coach Justin Gentry talked with Zandi about a year ago about coaching when his playing career was over, so he wasn’t surprised to hear from him earlier this year. The players immediately have taken to Zandi, Gentry said.
“He has really wrapped his arms around everything. We are more of a gap scheme this year, similar to what he played at Carolina, and he really gives good insight,” Gentry said. “Mason always was a student of the game and always wanted to learn. He wanted to know why and a reason for doing things. That was a sign of a kid who wants to be a coach.”
Zandi started on the offensive line at Chapin his senior year and went on to play in 49 games (24 starts) at South Carolina. He went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft but signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers last April. The Chargers released him a month later.
Zandi spent last year living in Charlotte, N.C., and worked with United Rental but wanted to be closer to home and to start coaching. He explored the possibility of getting into college coaching as a graduate assistant and reached out to USC coach Will Muschamp. There wasn’t an opening with the Gamecocks or any of the other colleges he contacted.
Eventually, Zandi hopes to get involved on the college level, but he is looking forward to working this year with the Chapin program. His day job is working with former Gamecock Ryan Brewer’s fence company, but his schedule is flexible to work around the football schedule.
Zandi is one of two former Chapin players on this year’s staff, along with Brandon Owens, who played at The Citadel. Known as a passionate player for the Gamecocks, Zandi brings that energy to coaching and hopes to pass it along to a future group of Chapin players.
“I still yell and get excited,” Zandi said. “I am a firm believer if you are passionate about something that you should let it show. I always wore my emotion on my sleeve and that transcends in the coaching world. I love to teach about football and life; it’s my passion. So far, it has been fun and we've got a good group of coachable guys.”