By Brendan Monahan, PSU Collegian
September 21, 2010
His first season starting at Marple Newtown High School, defensive end Pete Massaro burst onto the scene.
In Marple Newtown’s third game of Massaro’s sophomore season, he sacked Springfield High School’s quarterback three times and relished the hits.
“He’s always been a pretty intense guy,” Marple Newton coach Ray Gionta said. “He’s a guy that has a high motor.”
That high motor has taken him from the greater-Philadelphia area to State College, where he became a Penn State football player. It’s pushed him through an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear suffered during the 2009 Blue-White game. It’s given him a chance to press for more minutes this season, something coaches say was inevitable last year if the redshirt sophomore hadn’t gotten injured.
“It’s been a haul back for him,” Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said, “and he’s back where he was.”
His speed was the asset that first showed Gionta of Massaro’s potential. After Massaro’s freshman year, he ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash in spring mini camp.
Because of Massaro’s quickness, Bradley said he likes to use the defensive end in drop-back zone plays, and Massaro’s style is something that fits the philosophy of defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“What he kind of grades us on is how fast we play in practice,” Massaro said. “You got to practice fast in order to play fast.”
His quick play has earned him six tackles in three games. He also had one of the two sacks against Alabama’s Greg McElroy, which came in the second quarter.
But Massaro’s speed took a back seat after he tore his ACL. Gionta was at the Blue-White game when it happened and remembered feeling uneasy when seeing former linebacker Sean Lee and Johnson talking to Massaro after the injury occurred.
Gionta said the mental strain of such a serious injury is something a player can only fathom once he actually goes through it, but Massaro, who also wrestled in high school, was always mentally tough.
The coach’s initial concern over the injury led him to call Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden the next day. But Gionta puts the injury in the past now, as does Massaro.
“Every day just thought about football,” Massaro said, “worked toward getting back, worked toward helping this team be successful.”
Team co-captain Ollie Ogbu said Massaro’s recovery made it seem like no injury ever took place. In Massaro’s first Penn State start this past Saturday against Kent State, he was a disruption in the Golden Flashes backfield. On two consecutive plays in the first quarter, Massaro broke the line of scrimmage on rushing plays.
The first time, he tackled Kent State’s Spencer Keith but not before the Golden Flashes quarterback pitched the ball to running back Jacquise Terry on an option play. The next snap, he hit Terry for a five-yard loss.
“He’s running with his body,” Ogbu said, “using it as if he was never hurt and not playing anxious or hesitant.”
Massaro didn’t put too much stock into his first start. For the redshirt sophomore, Saturday was just another day on the job.
With coaches planning on rotating the defensive linemen to stay fresh, Massaro’s role should stay the same. Because of it, his intensity and speed should remain fully visible on the defensive line.
“Just looking forward to things to come,” Massaro said.