By Jared Shanker, PennLive.com
September 18, 2010
On Saturday, the redshirt sophomore got his first career start as he andSean Stanley replaced Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore as the defensive ends in the Nittany Lions’ 24-0 victory over Kent State at Beaver Stadium.
Massaro didn’t waste any time making an impact, either. With the Golden Flashes driving and at the Penn State 45-yard line midway through the first quarter, Massaro drove running back Jacquise Terry back for a loss of five. On the very next play, Massaro’s first step was too quick for left tackle Brian Winters and Massaro came right off the edge to hurry quarterback Spencer Keith into an incompletion.
“Pete is a very intense football player,” Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “He gives us another weapon in the front four.”
Massaro learned he would get the start at end on Wednesday, he said. It was an exciting moment for Massaro, who has had a tough start to his Penn State career.
After a redshirt season in 2008, Massaro was poised to join the defensive line rotation the following season. However, Massaro tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in the 2009 Blue-White game, ending his season.
Massaro finally stepped onto the field for the first time this season, and through three games, he has a sack and two tackles for losses.
“I knew I had the ability, but the injury was kind of a big setback,” Massaro said. “Every day I thought about football. I worked toward getting back, toward helping this team be successful.”
Lions coach Joe Paterno was unclear as to whether Massaro’s start was because of injuries to Crawford and Latimore or as a way of sending a message to the starters. Regardless, Massaro has proven himself to the rest of the defensive line in practice with his high motor and relentless attitude.
“Pete’s been looking good since training camp,” defensive tackle Devon Still said. “Since he came back from the ACL, he’s just been pushing the defensive ends to step their games up so they don’t get one of their spots taken. Today, he got to show what he had, and he did a good job doing it.”
Fellow defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu was shocked at Massaro’s intensity in practices despite the rebuilt knee. For many athletes, the biggest hurdle after major knee reconstruction is mental. Fears on how the knee will hold up linger in the back of their minds, causing them to ease up a little.
Ogbu never saw that in Massaro, who participated in spring practice but didn’t begin contact drills until fall camp.
“He came [into fall practice] throwing his body around and we were kind of brought back by that,” Ogbu said. “We were trying to look out for him and say ‘Are you OK’ and he’s looking at me like ‘I’m fine.’ He works hard and he’s dedicated.
“For a kid to have torn an ACL and come back and not only not lose a beat but come in and start and not only start but make plays, it speaks volumes to his character and work ethic.”