Injuries held back what might have otherwise have been a tremendous college career, but Pete Massaro was the consummate Penn Stater, both on and off the field.
Snakebit? Pete Massaro could tell something you about being snakebit.
A well-regarded prospect out of suburban Philadelphia, Massaro took a redshirt year in 2008 and must have spent the better part of that Rose Bowl season salivating. Watching Aaron Maybin wreak havoc off the edge thanks to a great first step and an unstoppable motor, Massaro must have said to himself, "I can do that." And aside from the obvious difference in skin tone, Pete was a dead ringer for Maybin--not only did he tip the scales at the same 6'4, 240 pounds, but he even donned the same #59. Well, when he made it onto the field, at least.
After that initial redshirt season, Massaro tore his ACL during the 2009 Blue/White Game, ending his sophomore year before it began. In 2010, Massaro made his impact felt immediately--two years watching from the bench will make a guy hungry to prove himself--and quickly earned a starting spot at defensive end. During that season's week two loss to Alabama, Massaro applied consistent pressure off the edge, earning his first career sack in the process. That was a high point in a solid, if unspectacular season, one that ended with 3.5 sacks, 8 TFL, and a prominent spot in Larry Johnson's rotation, moving forward.
That season also ended with something that would become Massaro's calling card--an First Team Academic All-Conference and All-American nod for his continuously superlative work in the classroom. A finance major who graduated with a 3.84 GPA, Massaro never had to worry about anything interfering with his studies.
But just as Massaro started to put it all together, well, you know what happened. Before the 2011 season, he tore his other ACL. In his four years at Penn State, Massaro had spent three of them without stepping foot on the gridiron. But Massaro did graduate during that year--early, in December of his senior year--and started work on a second degree in economics. Massaro returned for his final year of eligibility to be a senior leader on a team that did not want for leadership, a veteran on a unit loaded with them.
Yet alas, his final year in the Blue and White would be one that echoed his previous four. Hindered by a variety of nagging injuries--notably, a banged-up shoulder--Massaro missed three games and was limited in numerous others. But like the rest of this team, Massaro finished strong, coming back to start the last three games of the season, coming up particularly big in the wins over Iowa and Purdue. And every time he beat an overmatched tackle with a quick burst off the snap, it was a painful reminder of a career that could have been.
The important thing, though, is that Massaro once again found himself recognized for his academic excellence, earning his second Academic All-America nod (alongside his teammate, John Urschel). In a few weeks time, he'll have earned his second degree (finishing this one in just a year's time), and will leave Penn State, like so many others, ready to make an immediate impact--not necessarily in the world of football, but in that of business.
So sure, Pete Massaro might never have been the Nittany Lion we all hoped he'd become, but there's no doubt that he was the Penn Stater we all aspire to be.
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