But Dre Massey is a fighter. He’s been through a lot in his life so far at such a young age. He will get his junior year back. So 2017 is like a rewind year for him. All he knows now is that he is looking forward to what is ahead.
Massey isn’t allowed contact right now. The doctors want his torn ACL to heal completely. But, he is allowed to run at full speed, and catch the ball, and make those cuts that leave his teammates grabbing for air or amazed at the sight. There is no doubt how that feels after so many months off to rehab the knee.
“Feels real good,” Massey said earlier in the week.
A short summary that doesn’t do his journey justice of some of the things that Massey has gone through, and you just know that this was just a blip on the screen, a speedbump on the highway of life. Something he is just going to cruise right through when the people in charge allow him to.
The biggest thing that he went through was the death of his father in a car accident before he was in high school. The next big obstacle was growing up in a tough neighborhood in Laurens, South Carolina, a neighborhood that kept the family moving and eventually out of Laurens and into Greenville where he would eventually go to school and star.
“We (were) in a pretty rough neighborhood in South Carolina. Laurens, South Carolina,” Massey said. “And some of the family members would tell her that, since I was playing football and I was pretty good, they would tell her she should move me away. So we would move everywhere around Laurens. And finally she moved me out of Laurens County to Greenville. And there was a school, and we knew Kevin Garnett went there. Mauldin. And it was a nice little area or whatever, so she figured I wouldn't be getting into any trouble. So we went over there and I started sports and stuff like that and hoping I would make a name for myself."
The mental anguish that came along with the loss of his father led to bad grades early in his high school career and although he adjusted during his years at Mauldin, the early grades caused him another setback. He would have to miss his scholarship to East Carolina and make his way to Holes Community College in Mississippi.
The death of his father, living in rough neighborhoods, constantly moving, offered a scholarship then not being able to take it… time after time he was faced with obstacles and time and again, he overcame… just another day at the office for Massey.
"I guess like every other kid (does), just keep moving,” he said matter of fact like about his ability to survive and move on.
“That's why a lot of things don't really get me down. I'm cool.”
It’s just in his nature now to bounce back. When the doctors told him the extent of the injury, his mother was by his side. It was another hurdle, not an easy one, but one they would get through as well.
“When they told me, my mom was there,” he said. “Obviously, we were down about it. We just looked at each other and kind of smiled. Like another storm. We have to fight one more thing. And I’ll be back.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. One thing he always had was playing football, and for a few months at least, that was take away from him.
“The hardest thing… just knowing that I couldn’t play,” he said. “Getting up early in the morning and going to rehab, treatment. I wanted to do that because I wanted to get back. It wasn’t hard… it was just knowing in the big games like LSU, I couldn’t go. That was the hardest thing.”
While he isn’t all the way back, he can smell the finish line to the start of the next race.
“It’s been a process, really,” he said. “I was really down about it at first. I tried to stay up as much as possible, being with my teammates and showing them I wasn’t getting discouraged. I was just really keeping my hopes up and making sure I’m ready for this moment right here… this year right here. This is really getting behind my team and making sure I’m ready.”
Now he has to fight the urge to overdo it. In his head he knows that he can really have a huge setback if he does something he shouldn’t but his heart wants to get out there and break ankles like he is capable of doing. Getting back in as much as he can so far has been exhilarating.
“It was exciting,” he said about getting back after it this spring. “I was a little rusty the first day back. I had a few things I had to get back right. Route running was probably the hardest thing to get back. It was fun, it was fun. I’m still trying to do everything, but they’re’ not really letting me yet.”
“I’ve got most of my speed back, most of it. Probably just a little bit more to get back, but I’m just about back.”
And he’s ahead of schedule according to the doctors.
"Yeah, way ahead,” he said when asked. “I've been way ahead of schedule."
It is all about that mindset of overcoming. He just had to work harder than most.
"I would say coming in extra days,” he said on how he is at the point he is at right now. “I would do the stuff that we do here. I would do it at home. I would do extra reps of things and just do it the best I could. I just felt like that's what helped me a lot."
"They would tell me don't push it too much and be careful. But, you know, having that competitive aspect, you want to get back to the field. So you want to do more."
He will be doing the things he does behind the closed gates of the practice field in September. That is when the knee will really get tested with contact. And when the pads are popping and everyone is going fast in every direction, he will be able to bring to the Florida offense what he intended to bring in 2016.
“That playmaking ability,” he said. “Whenever I touch the ball, I can score anytime. I think I’m bringing that. It will help a lot.”
His mind is in a good place, he has no fear of anything happening to the injured knee. He expects when the whistle blows in 2017, he’s going to be able to accomplish the things expected of him a year ago.
"Yeah, I'm still confident,” he said. “Ima just be more quiet. Ima just play."
When you watch him on the practice field in the parts of practice he can run, you would have no idea there has been an issue with his leg. He’s as fast as anyone on the field, he cuts with authority, and he catches everything thrown at him like he does it in his sleep.
Don’t tell him he’s not ready.
“I’m not limited,” he said. “I’m ready.”