By Joe Juliano, Philadelphia Inquirer
November 19, 2010
During the tedious rehabilitation on his surgically repaired right knee, Pete Massaro worked diligently on his body, lifting weights and doing exercises to help improve his speed and agility for when he returned to the football field for Penn State.
But no matter how much time he devoted to all the workouts or how much film he watched to become a better football player, there were no drills to eliminate the lingering doubt in his mind.
Massaro had good reason for his uncertainty. A promising defensive end from Marple Newtown High School in Delaware County, he was spending his second season away from football, having been redshirted his first year before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2009 Blue-White spring game.
“There was kind of this nagging fear that I wouldn’t be myself when I came back,” Massaro said this week, “that I wouldn’t be the same football player, and I wouldn’t have the same speed or quickness.
“I think that fear was one of the things that kind of motivated me to work as hard as I could every day in the off-season. It motivated me to play as fast as I possibly could and go as hard as I could when I came back to make up for all the time that I missed while I was injured.”
Massaro has done just that. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound redshirt sophomore from Newtown Square has performed well in his first varsity season, having made seven consecutive starts while leading the injury-riddled defensive end ranks for the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten), who play Indiana Saturday in Landover, Md.
Throughout his rehab and comeback, Massaro constantly relied on his parents, Pete and Lisa, and his high school coach, Ray Gionta, for support and encouragement.
“That second [idle] year, that was tough,” Gionta said. “We talked about getting in the weight room, putting more weight on, doing what he had to do in his rehab and getting stronger. That’s how he took it. But in the spring, nobody knew his restrictions, what he could do.”
Massaro felt some anxiety about that first hit in preseason and what effect the impact would have on his knee. But once that happened, he was fine.
With the projected starting defensive ends, Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, slowed by injuries, Massaro made his initial start in the season’s third game against Kent State and hasn’t missed a start since. He is second on the team with three sacks and tied for third with 61/2 tackles for loss.
Massaro said the season has “met my expectations.
“I’ve been having a great time this season through all the tough times and the adversity that we’ve faced,” he said. “I’m just excited looking forward.”
The injury bug hasn’t avoided Massaro completely. He missed much of the Illinois game with dehydration and has been slowed by what he called “bumps and bruises,” things that have been noticed by coach Joe Paterno.
“He’s been banged up a little bit,” Paterno said. “He hasn’t really had a chance to show what he can do yet. I think his future is ahead of him – good kid, bright kid, excellent student.”
Massaro called the hurts “nothing really big . . . just stuff that everybody experiences during the season.” He said his previously injured knee has not been affected.
The season for Massaro has included his selection to the ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District team, an award that makes him eligible for Academic All-America. He carries a 3.83 grade-point average as a finance major.
For football, the doubts for Massaro have long passed, and the future looks good.
“I just try to get a little bit better each day,” Massaro said. “I think this year has really showed me the kind of preparation and physicality that’s necessary to play in the Big Ten. I’m nowhere near satisfied with the place that I’m at right now, and I want to continue to improve.”
Fera out. The team announced that punter Anthony Fera underwent an emergency appendectomy and will miss the final two regular-season games. Fera, a redshirt freshman, led a punting unit that ranks 11th in the nation in net yards. He also handled kickoff duties.