MASON Cox had read the obituaries. He knew most had written him off in recent months, just like many have across the past two years. But it didn't faze him. His whole football journey has been against the odds. 

The Texan has produced better performances – the 2018 preliminary final against Richmond, the 2020 elimination final in Perth and the five goals on Queen's Birthday four years ago – but his game against Carlton on Sunday was almost as important in the context of his career.

The 31-year-old has been on the outer at the Magpies in the past 18 months, managing only seven games in 2021 before having to wait until the end of October to earn a one-year extension, and playing just two of the first nine games of 2022.

But now Cox is back in the senior side with a fresh lease on life after finishing with 11 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 11 hitouts, six marks, four contested grabs, four tackles and one goal in a tense final quarter to help the Magpies win by four points at the MCG.

The numbers don't jump off the page, but the impact did, particularly in front of 80,627 in a game that felt like a final against an ancient enemy who is on the cusp of re-emerging as a contender. 

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The soccer player-turned-basketballer now has 80 games on the board since Collingwood beat Port Adelaide, North Melbourne, Richmond and Fremantle to his signature in 2014 after he was spotted at the US Combine in Los Angeles earlier that year.

Cox will formally receive Australian citizenship next month with his family back in Melbourne for the first time in a long time and is keen to keep silencing the doubters. 

"I know a lot of people like to talk a bit of shit in the media and what not, but it doesn't really bother me. It's not their journey to go through. I'm pretty proud of my career and where I'm from," Cox told AFL.com.au on Sunday night.

"If people want to talk shit, they can talk shit. In all honesty, I think when I end up looking back on my career, I will be pretty proud and happy with how it's all gone.

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"It's been a bit of a slog for the last two years, to be honest. It's been up and down and all around. It's just good to be back out there in a big game in front of lots of people. 

"With Brodie Grundy's injury, one person is a bit unfortunate, but it's fortunate for myself to get a bit more opportunity in the ruck. I'm really excited to see where it goes."

This time last week, Cox was in doubt for the clash against the Blues after being substituted out of last Sunday's win against Fremantle with a dislocated finger, making his performance on the weekend even more impressive. 

The 211cm ruck-forward was cleared of a broken finger on Monday and tendon damage on Tuesday, but wasn't cleared to play until Friday after he proved he could train without risking infection in the wound.

Mason Cox kicks the ball during Collingwood's clash with Carlton in round 11, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"To be honest with you, at the beginning of the week, I didn't think I'd play. Essentially my knuckle popped out and broke the skin. I got six stitches and you could see the tendon, the bone and everything else, so we stitched it up. We had to wait and see if it would get infected just because of the circumstances of the weather last week," he said.

"We got to about Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday and it was going OK. It just came down to if I could mark the footy. Craig (McRae) came up to me and asked if I was good to go. It was a bit of a question mark for a decent part of the week. I didn't do much all week, maybe I won't have to do much this week, too."

With the second-highest crowd of the season in attendance – just behind the 84,205 on Anzac Day – for a clash between two arch-rivals in good form, Sunday felt like a final in May and finished like a game played in September.

"It is a great win for the club," he said. "Obviously there is a great rivalry between Collingwood and Carlton so it was a very good day. I don't know how many fans were here – probably 80,000? – so to have that atmosphere when the game is on the line was an awesome feeling. What a win."

Mason Cox after Collingwood's win over Carlton in round 11 on May 29, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Cox has turned heads in 2022, wearing prescription sunglasses during games and training, following five different eye surgeries since being poked in the eye during the 2018 Grand Final loss to West Coast.

He has tinkered with his eyewear across the first half of the season, wearing two different lenses on Sunday – one darker than the other – and just like most things, he doesn't care what people think about his unique appearance. 

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"It's a medical thing for me. People can talk about it and say this and that and make fun of it, but at the end of the day, if I get poked in the eye again I'm going to go blind. I don't want to take that risk. I want to have a normal life once I finish footy," he said.

"I think it's a bit of Australia, to be honest, they don't like anything that looks a bit different or doesn't fit inside the box. Sorry I'm a bit too big to fit inside the box. 

"If that means wearing sunnies when I play … there is good reasoning for wearing the sunnies."

The USA chant reverberated around the MCG on Sunday, just like it did against the Tigers on that famous September night in 2018. It might not be the final time we hear it before Cox is done in this business.