How & why Kansas football tight end Mason Fairchild landed Buffalo Bills camp invite

After going undrafted in the 2024 NFL Draft, Mason Fairchild didn’t know what his future held.

Naturally, the former Kansas tight end was a little worried until he accepted a rookie minicamp invitation from the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

“It was a stressful process when the draft ended, because (the Cincinnati) Bengals kind of offered an available free-agent contract, but they pulled it pretty quickly because I think they had someone else signed,” Fairchild told The Star. “After that, I was just kind of waiting for an opportunity, and the Colts called just (because) the connection between their staff and having Cole Ballard’s dad as the GM of the Colts.”

Chris Ballard, father of Kansas quarterback Cole, is the Indianapolis Colts’ general manager. But Fairchild went in a different direction.

“Just that connection there kind of helped open up an opportunity,” Fairchild said. “The Bills’ offer just seemed better — for a better chance to stick on the roster.”

Fairchild totaled 451 yards and three touchdowns on 27 receptions in the 2023 season. He had over 1,100 receiving yards in 58 career games with the Jayhawks. The Andale native talked to coach Lance Leipold throughout his decision-making process.

“He helped me out with that Colts (offer) before I got the Bills one,” Fairchild said. “Obviously just grateful I got the opportunity that I did.”

Fairchild will head to Bills rookie minicamp on May 9. With no guaranteed contract, he hopes to make a lasting impression on the Bills’ coaching staff.

“The hardworking thing is cliche, but I really want to showcase my intelligence — the ability to learn a playbook really fast,” Fairchild said. “I want to show them I’m willing to do whatever it takes — tight end, fullback, special teams — whatever it takes to make the roster.”

Ultimately, Fairchild looks back on his five years at Kansas with fondness.

Kansas football won three total games in his first two seasons before going 2-10 in Year 3 (the start of the Leipold era). Kansas went 6-7 and reached a bowl game in his senior season before finishing last year, Fairchild’s super-senior year, at 9-4.

“I’m just grateful to be where I am at because a couple of years ago, we had a lot of guys that were pro material that never got the opportunity because we were just struggling as a team,” Fairchild said. “I’m really, really excited for where the program is going, and I’m happy that I was a part of it.”

Fairchild’s thoughts about Kansas football’s progression certainly ring true. The Jayhawks had two players selected in the draft: Offensive lineman Dominick Puni (San Francisco 49ers) went in the third round and edge rusher Austin Booker (Chicago Bears) went in the fifth round.

Several other KU players signed free-agent contracts, including quarterback Jason Bean with the Indianapolis Colts.

Fairchild believes his former teammates getting their shot in the NFL is a testament to how far Kansas football has come.

“A couple of years ago, you couldn’t get half the teams to show up at the KU pro day,” Fairchild said. “Now, we have 6-7 guys getting opportunities. … To have that many guys getting opportunities shows where the program is going.”