A New England Patriot invests in Columbia, with a new home and a foundation that gives back

By Hollie Deese
Photography by Reed Brown

Shaq Mason knew his first home had to be in Columbia, Tennessee. His hometown, it’s where the New England Patriot first learned to play football, and where he now operates the Shaq Mason Foundation. The foundation works with local schools to provide opportunities for children and their families, whether it’s access to a football camp or surprising students at his alma mater with Christmas gifts.

“He had been looking for his Tennessee home for quite some time,” says his mother, Alicia McGuire, who also helps run his foundation. “House after house after house, and just not finding what he wanted.”

Shaq Mason and mom Alicia McGuire

The two were actually on their way to look at a different property when their Realtor suggested stopping by a new listing that happened to be on the way. They decided to take a peek, and when they walked in they didn’t need to see any more.

“He said, ‘Mama, this is it,’” McGuire says. “And to know him, he is that type of person. Like when he picked his college — he does things off of a feeling. He’s a faith believer, and he just believes that when he’s led, he’s led. And when he walked through the doors of that house, it felt like home.”

The right design

Ciera Farley with Decorating Den Interiors worked closely with McGuire, who knew what her son’s interests were and could help guide the process locally while the two-time Super Bowl champion was in New England with the team. McGuire’s other son is a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University.

“He wanted something with a definite ‘wow’ factor,” Farley says. Once he found that space, she only wanted to enhance the architecture that drew him to the home in the first place, like the large glass windows looking out to the pool in the back and the tall ceilings perfect for oversize art.

“He likes all the windows — it’s like a glass house because everywhere in the house you can see outside,” McGuire says.

The theater room was also a plus for Mason, something he had always wanted when he could buy his own home, and he loved the dramatic nature of the foyer.

As for furniture, Farley helped guide Mason in his choices, steering him toward performance fabrics to handle his three young girls, or a crew of football friends.

“We have a lot of easy-to-clean, very durable pieces,” Farley says.

And he was not afraid to go out of the box a little bit when it came to style, though Farley made sure the inside design didn’t push too hard against the architecture of the home. Together they ended up putting blue wallpaper in the foyer, along with leopard and an oversized piece of art of Muhammad Ali.

“We didn’t do anything too extravagant because I still wanted it to be classy and manly, but comfortable,” she says.

Designer Ciera Farley, Decorating Den

In fact, Farley found as much inspiration working with Mason as he did from her, and she hopes to be able to work with more young Black men in the future.

“So many males really don’t know what to do when they get in the space,” Farley says. “But you can hire somebody, and we’re not going to totally dictate everything. We are going to help guide you on what you like and just give different ideas.”

Foundation gives back

Mason got the idea for his foundation after he had agreed to partner with a different organization to do a football camp that cost $70 per child. As it got closer to the time of the camp, Mason felt he couldn’t participate because of his memories watching his own mom struggle to come up with the money for him to participate in similar activities.

“He said, ‘I grew up in a single mom home and watched you work two or three jobs all my life. I can’t as a man, watch some children be turned away because of money.’”

And so he started his own camp, and it was completely free, from the T-shirts to the food, all from his own money. Now in its third year, he has sponsors to help, but it is always completely free for the children. The camp did have to be put on hold this year because of COVID-19, but plans are for it to return next year.

And for Christmas, Mason picks an elementary school every year and hosts a Shaq Mason Christmas through the foundation, gifting each child in the school a tablet and a bag with candy and gifts.

“I always say I stand back and I literally watched my child’s dreams come true,” McGuire says. “Not about him being a professional athlete. I look more at him as Shaquille Mason, the man. As a mother, that’s what you want. I just want him to be a good person. I never really cared about him being a good football player. I wanted him to be a good person. A decent person. I mean, you can’t ask for more than that.”