Getting through adversity takes a lot more than just effort. It also requires a constant reminder of why the fight is worth it. For Ponderosa High School defensive lineman Mason Knighton, there was one thing he would always tell himself during the hard times.
"It's like lifting weights, really," Knighton said. "You put on this big load and you go down with it. It tears you up a little bit. But, in the long run, you heal from it. And, you grow stronger."
Every rep, every set, every game and every practice, he lived out those words. They helped the 6'5" 240 pound senior turn into one of the better high school football players in the state. And, they helped him carry the heaviest weight in his life--something that stays on Mason's shoulders long after he leaves the gym.
"Mason is such a tough kid," his mother, Jenni Prince told 9NEWS. "He's been a fighter from the get go."
He had to be. Growing up, Mason and his two older brothers had what they called a horrible relationship with their biological father.
After a messy divorce, his mom, Jenni, took the kids and left. Mason was just 9 years old when his family lost almost everything.
"It was a heck of a transition," Jenni said. "I didn't have any money. We did, in turn, lose our house. The kids lost a lot of their animals."
"It was definitely a turning point in our life where you find that inner strength within you and your family. It's a lot to see your children suffer, and I'm thankful to my parents for stepping in and filling the blanks when I couldn't."
One of those blanks was providing a place to live. After the divorce, the family--Jenni, Mason, his older brothers, Gavin and Emil, and his younger sister, Addie--no longer had their home to live in. They had to stay with Mason's grandparents just to have a roof over their head.
For a football player who now has several college athletic scholarships to consider, Mason learned at a young age what it was like to have practically nothing to choose from at all.
"I could carry everything I owned in a small little case," Mason said. "It was actually kind of convenient. We could pack it in the back of the car and go anywhere."
It's the only thing in his life that was actually easy to carry. Everything else was pretty heavy.
Mason was born not being able to hear very well. It took several surgeries as a child in order to get his hearing up to the very bare minimum of normal.
"It was really tough to see him struggle to even speak, based on the fact that he couldn't hear," Jenni said. "He was in speech for six years to even be able to do that."
Like everything else in his life, Mason eventually fought through that, healed and got stronger.
His positive attitude through it all is something he learned from his mother--who now works two jobs to take care of her four children.
"She's the most amazing woman in the world," Mason said. "She helped us get through all of this. And, she fought tooth and nail for me and my brothers."
It's a fight that the family is now winning. They have their own place to live. Mason's older brother, Gavin, is in the marines. His other brother, Emil, plays basketball at the University of Denver. And Mason, a kid who once wondered when he'd have a bed to sleep on, is now wondering where he's going to play college football.
With every push from his family, every nudge in the right direction and every bit of help from those who invested everything in him, Mason is now on the right track and stronger than ever. And, no weight he'll ever pick up in life will tear him down.