By Joe Juliano, Philadelphia Inquirer
November 09, 2011
The fact that he is sitting out the Penn State football season for the second time in three years because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament has done nothing to dampen the spirits of Pete Massaro.
In fact, the defensive end who once starred at Marple Newtown High School in Delaware County is so encouraged about the way his rehabilitation is going, he is entertaining thoughts of perhaps making an attempt to play in the Nittany Lions’ season-ending bowl game.
Massaro called his personal goal being “mostly for me mentally” in his rehab. But when he does the math, roughly nine months from March 25 – when he suffered the injury to his left knee in a spring practice session, followed soon after by surgery – until the likely Jan. 1 bowl, it encourages him.
“I think I might be a little too positive,” Massaro said last week. “I’m just trying not to get too far ahead of myself, because with the way I’m feeling I don’t want to push myself too much with the sprinting and changing directions.
“But as of right now, I feel great, and it’s hard to keep myself from wanting to push myself further. So I think the positivity that I’ve tried to keep has played a big part in how successful my recovery time has been.”
Massaro, who has junior eligibility and could petition for a sixth year if he doesn’t compete in 2011, tore the ACL in his right knee during the 2009 Blue-White Game. He had doubts during the rehab from the injury that he could regain the strength and speed he possessed beforehand.
However, when he returned last season, he became a valuable contributor to the defensive line, recording eight tackles for loss and 31/2 sacks. So as he goes through his latest rehab, he is more positive about regaining his form.
“Having that year [in 2010] to get out on the field and experience Big Ten play was very beneficial for me,” he said. “I don’t have any doubts about my playing ability. I think if I come back at the speed and weight and size and strength that I want to be next season, it’s going to be a successful year for me and the team in general.”
Massaro’s father, Peter, said his son’s positive nature comes from success in setting and reaching goals. He achieved a black belt in karate at age 12, and worked throughout his youth to become a pitcher before deciding to concentrate on football.
“As long as he had a goal he wanted to achieve, he was going to work toward it,” the elder Massaro said. “He sets goals and really works hard for them. This year, he wanted to have his best year, his best game. Now he has to wait until next year, so he’s going to rehab the knee and get stronger.”
Being off from football is helping Massaro, a finance major who ended the spring semester with a 3.84 grade-point average, prepare for his graduation in December. But he also is very much involved with the football team – watching film, learning from the defensive coaches, and counseling his teammates.
Massaro helped in another way in September after star linebacker Michael Mauti went down against Eastern Michigan, suffering his second torn ACL in three seasons.
“It didn’t seem like a big deal at first since he walked off the field,” Massaro said. “But then someone told me his ACL was gone, and my heart just dropped.
“The first thing you think about when you get hurt is the process you’re about to go through, a lot of the adversity that you’re going to face. I told him, ‘It’s not going to be as hard this time. You’ve faced this before, and you’re going to make it through again.’ I think that gave him a pretty comforting feeling.”
Massaro said he looked forward to next season, when he’ll play with the members of his 2008 recruiting class. But he hasn’t completely closed the door on this season, at least not yet.
“My mind-set right now is that I am preparing to play in the bowl game,” he said. “Whether I do or not, it’s going to help me mentally progress that much more. I don’t know how I’m going to feel a month and a half down the road. But I’d say there’s a slight chance.”