Published in the Delaware County Times, Sunday, May 12, 2013
By BOB GROTZ
PHILADELPHIA — No matter what happens during Pete Massaro’s tryout with the Eagles, his exploits will be legend in Newtown Square.
They named an MVP award after Massaro at Marple Newtown High School, where he excelled in three sports and in the classroom.
Pete to us was the entire package,” Tigers football head coach Ray Gionta said. “He was two years All-Delco. He was a captain for us, an outstanding wrestler and baseball player here. He was a National Honor Society kid and a great citizen around the school and continued to be that way at Penn State. I thought it was going to be tough naming the MVP after anybody. But then again, to get another Pete Massaro is going to be tougher. So that’s how I came up with picking Pete for it.”
Massaro said he was humbled by the honor. The 6-4, 257-pound undrafted rookie defensive end is honored that the Eagles offered him the chance to try out along with high-profile veterans like Chris Gocong during their weekend rookie camp.
Massaro grew up near the Porsche dealership on West Chester Pike in Newtown Square, just 35 minutes from the sports complex in South Philly. Take the under if the Blue Route isn’t in rush-hour mode as Massaro cannot wait to hit the practice field, his M.O. at Penn State.
“I’ve been an Eagles fan my whole life,” Massaro said. “When I got the call it was an honor. It’s a great feeling. But right now I’m not a fan. I came here to work. And I’m doing my best, working hard and that’s all I can do right now.”
Massaro’s immediate focus is to prove his knees are all the way back from surgeries for torn ACL’s performed two years apart. The injuries occurred in spring practices preceding the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
Last season Massaro registered eight tackles, including one for loss, ½ sack and one pass break-up before suffering a shoulder injury early in the season. The Nittany Lions went 8-4 in the wake of the firing, then the death of Joe Paterno and the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
The good news is Massaro’s knees feel healthy. The ACL’s basically aren’t fully functional until the second year back from surgery.
“They’ve been hefty trials but I’m here and getting my shot and that’s all that matters for me,” Massaro said. “I think I might be a little bit crazy on that front. I’m still here abusing my body. But I’ll go until somebody tells me to stop.”
Massaro is impressed with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, from the up-tempo, high-energy practices to the teaching sessions. The staff is plugging Massaro and other rookies and free agents in at various positions while instructing them in the basic scheme.
For now position isn’t as critical as getting the plays right, although with the Eagles, Massaro would seem best suited for the role of rush linebacker.
Massaro opened Gionta’s eyes in a pass-rushing role as a sophomore. Massaro got everyone’s attention running a 4.75 in the 40-yard dash at spring testing.
“At that point I said to myself, ‘this guy could be a major college football player’ because he ran so well,” Gionta said. “And that fall, the night that we re-dedicated our stadium when we got the turf installed, he got three sacks against Springfield. And that was kind of the breakthrough night of Pete Massaro. Those are the two things that I remember most about him early on.”
When the football and wrestling seasons were over at Marple Newtown, Massaro turned his attention to baseball. He was good enough to entertain a career as a Major League pitcher. Ultimately football and Gionta, not necessarily in that order, won out. Massaro accepted a full scholarship to Penn State.
Massaro sat out the first season in Happy Valley and tore the ACL in the right knee at spring practice before what would have been his redshirt freshman season. Yet he returned the following year and showed promise.
Massaro started the last 11 games of 2010 at defensive end for the Nittany Lions, finishing fourth on the squad with four tackles for loss while producing 3½ sacks, 37 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
That year also was the beginning of CoSIDA Academic All-America and NCAA Academic All-American honors for Massaro, who, if football isn’t the ticket intends to use his degree in finance and economics to work the stock market.
Massaro has a “passion for the markets and trading,” replete with Scott Trade and Options House accounts in which he’s already set up short- and long-term investment plans.
How Massaro focused on football, rehab and study in the wake of the sex scandal rocking Penn State tells you a lot about his grit.
“I consider myself a little more weathered now having gone through that,” said Massaro, who was helping with game-day football operations when the Sandusky scandal broke. “(The verdict) provided a little bit of closure. Everyone had their opinions but the truth as I see it came out that day in court. I don’t really pay too much attention to the other stuff. That day in court the person who was responsible for all the crimes was punished and that’s what matters.”
Gionta cannot help but wonder how much different it would have been for Massaro had he not been sidelined by the injuries, particularly the one after the promising sophomore season.
“I think if he didn’t have those he wouldn’t be trying out,” Gionta said. “He would have gotten drafted. There’s nothing you can do about that. I think he’s had a great career at Penn State and hopefully he gets an opportunity. You can only take it one day at a time and do the best you can. One thing we know is every rep he’s getting this weekend he’s giving you 100 percent.”