Massaro shows his toughness for Penn State

Posted: August 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - By 12:30 p.m. on July 23, Marple Newtown High School football coach Ray Gionta had already gotten a call from a college.

That was the day the NCAA hammered Penn State with devastating sanctions that bar the Nittany Lions from playing in a postseason or bowl game for 4 years in aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the university's handling of the matter.

The college, which Gionta preferred not to name, came calling because it was interested in the possibility that one of Gionta's prized former players, Penn State defensive end Pete Massaro, would consider a transfer.

At a Phillies-Brewers game in South Philadelphia that night, Gionta spoke with his former player by phone.

"He never wavered at all," Gionta recalled. "At that point, there was a lot of uncertainty with what all the other guys were gonna do. I mean, he's true-blue Penn State."

Massaro could be forgiven for wavering. The 6-4, 256-pound redshirt senior from Newtown Square has sat out two seasons of football during his time as a Lion after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during the Blue-White Game in 2009 and then tearing his left ACL during spring practice to miss the 2011 season.

But on Thursday at the Lasch Football Building's practice fields, there was Massaro.

"It definitely feels nice to be close to the end of the road of recovery and feeling 100 percent," Massaro said after noting he's been dealing with some recent setbacks that he doesn't think will sideline him for the Sept. 1 season opener vs. Ohio.

In 2010, Massaro started 11 games, recording 37 tackles, including eight for losses. After being dealt his second crippling blow in 2011, Gionta said, Massaro's positive reaction right from the beginning was no surprise.

"I spoke with him hours after [his second] surgery," Gionta said. "He was positive right then, right from the get-go, that he was going to come back, and he knew what had to be done."

If health is kind to Massaro, he will be one of the anchors on the defensive side of the ball for the Lions, particularly the four up front. The line lost a few key players from last season's squad, such as Devon Still, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Jack Crawford, of the Oakland Raiders.

Senior center Matt Stankiewitch lauded the toughness his close friend has displayed.

"For him to still be here, playing football, is a testament to his character and how tough he really is," he said. "He's a very tough guy, and I can't wait to have him back."

For Massaro, these most recent setbacks, about which he did not want to go into detail, are not something to mope about.

"It's just another trial that I have to face," Massaro said. "There's no use in getting down about it. It's just something that I have to fight through. I've gotten the required treatment, and I think that's going to help."

Gionta has remained close with Massaro since he left for college. He had a lot to say about the kind of football player Massaro is.

"He's a rare kid where he's just a great student, a great kid, a hard worker," Gionta said. "He's just terrific. He's a good person. He's going to be very successful no matter what he does."


Contact Tim Gilbert at gilbert@phillynews.com.

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