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Massa fights through position change, ACL tear

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, November 21, 2013

Luke Massa came to Notre Dame as a quarterback. 

The Cincinnati native arrived on campus with fellow freshman recruits Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. All were recruits of former Irish coach Charlie Weis. All were vying for both a backup spot behind Dayne Crist and a chance to be the future starter. All were looking to make an impact. 

Massa had thrown for 3,496 yards and 28 touchdowns during his career at St. Xavier. When Hendrix and Massa were placed on the scout team, new coach Brian Kelly asked if Massa would move to receiver. Massa had the option to transfer schools or to be a receiver. 

He moved to the new position without hesitation. 

“[Kelly] asked me to switch,” Massa said. “Originally when me and Andrew were placed on the scout team, I was switched to receiver on the scout team. I was doing okay there, so they decided to move me from [quarterback] because I had size and you always need a lot of bodies at receiver. … I was excited about [the switch to receiver], because I want to do anything they ask me to do. I want to do whatever is best for the team.”

Luke Massa is a teammate. Despite having to learn a new position and the possibility of not playing, Massa was undeterred.   

“I was always taught in high school by my high school coaches, that it’s always what’s important now,” Massa said. “And at that time the important thing for me to do was be a teammate from the receiver standpoint. Basically do whatever I can to help people learn and do whatever I can to help the team.” 

Luke Massa is a basketball player. He grew up with it. Luke’s father, Gary, was a captain of the basketball team at Xavier University, a team MVP and a member of the 1,000-point club. Luke said he grew up a huge Xavier fan and went to almost every game. 

The 6-foot-4 Massa was a starting forward at St. Xavier High School and had played basketball his whole life. So when Kelly asked him to switch to receiver, Massa saw it as an opportunity to put to use his basketball talents. 

“I played basketball and I felt comfortable with the switch to receiver and I felt like it gave me a better chance of playing,” Massa said.

Luke Massa is determined. After the switch to receiver, Massa dedicated himself to his new position. 

“It’s been tough [not getting playing time],” Massa said. “Any athlete is competitive. I am definitely very, very competitive. I am used to the guy being on the field. It has been interesting to switch. With the knee issues I have had, it has obviously been tough. I am one of the guys who will never give up trying to get my spot on the field.” 

Luke Massa is a fighter. He did not play a single game his freshman year, but earned a spot on special teams his sophomore year and played in eight games. Things were looking up for Massa, he said, but in a 2012 spring practice going into his junior year, Massa tore his ACL.

“It was a freak thing,” Massa said. “No one was guarding me, it was just on air. We were working on go [routes]. I ran a go and it was a back shoulder throw and my foot just got caught. I heard a pop and I came off the field. They took me out and I walked off the field fine. When I got off, they told me I tore my ACL.” 

It never crossed his mind to not come back, Massa said. 

“When I tore it … ever since I was little, I heard how hard of an injury it was to come back from,” he said. “But the main thing was, it was not going to help me to get down on myself or anything like that. I needed to do whatever I could to be happy and keep motivated or I was never going to be able to get back. I guess that’s in my nature. I didn’t want to quit football. I love it so much.”   

Luke Massa is a comeback story. He recovered from his injury and became the holder and emergency quarterback this season. The pressure does not get to Massa, he said. 

“I remember last year watching a couple of game-winners and the long field goals, I just thought to myself it would be tough to be that guy,” Massa said. “I kind of embrace it. I love getting the opportunity to be on the field in any way I can.”

Luke Massa is a man of conviction. Throughout all of the obstacles he has faced at Notre Dame, Massa said it has been his steadfast faith and friends that have got him through the rough patches.        

“Right when [I tore my ACL], it was really tough,” Massa said. “I felt like I was just starting to do really, really well and feeling comfortable at receiver. I just went to the Grotto after it happened. What really helped me, was just having good friends and teammates around me to help motivate me, get me back on my feet and try my hardest to get back.”     

Luke Massa became a Domer. He said he wants to go into sports marketing or medical sales after graduation, but with his redshirt status, he has one more year of eligibility. 

“I have the chance to come back [to Notre Dame],” Massa said. “Or I am a marketing major, so I could go into sales. That’s what’s nice about Notre Dame. That’s what’s nice about tearing your ACL at Notre Dame. Some people, at other schools, have a devastating injury like that and immediately start to worry about what’s going to happen from here. It was a nice thing to lay my hat on. Just to think that I have a future ahead of me because of the school I went to.”

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu