When Tim Massaquoi first arrived on Michigan's campus four years ago, he did so as one of the top rated wide receivers in the country. As a matter of fact, he was actually far more heralded than his fellow classmate Braylon Edwards was. Ranked as highly as fifth at his position during his senior year, Massaquoi had many of the nation's top program's beating down his door. However, after narrowing his list to a final two of Michigan and Penn State, he decided to pledge to the Wolverines.
"I thought Penn State was a great school, but I wanted to see what school fit for me," Massaquoi recalled. "I wanted to see which school I felt most comfortable at. I felt comfortable at Penn State. It was a great school and it was in my top two. But when I came to Michigan I felt like it was more for me. I felt like I made a decision based on the academics and the sports, and it turned out to be good for me."
Many teams, including the Nittany Lions, recruited Massaquoi as a tight end. At 6-4, 215 lbs. with the ability to run a 4.6 forty, even recruiting pundits thought his best days would be spent working on the end of the line. Massaquoi, though, had other plans. He wanted to play wide receiver, and in Ann Arbor he would get that opportunity. His plan changed, however, after competing at wideout during his freshman season (which was cut short by surgery). At the conclusion of his first spring as a Wolverine, the talented pass catcher went into coach Carr's office and requested that he be moved to tight end.
"To me, it was a matter of playing time," said Massaquoi. "In my heart, even today, I feel like I'm a receiver. But it was a move that was beneficial for me because I wanted to get on the field no matter what. I could put on 100-lbs. and play tackle or something, as long as I was on the field. That was the most important thing. I just said whatever we can do too get on the field, lets do it. Playing tight end was the spot, so I said lets do it."
The transition from playing on the perimeter to working down in the trenches didn't come without its obstacles. Massaquoi's initial year at tight end was one in which his opponent often physically overmatched him. "The most difficult part about that was learning how to block." Massaquoi said. "I blocked as a receiver, but it wasn't like I had been blocking guys that were 280 lbs. It was tough for me because I was kind of strong, but I wasn't strong enough to block those guys. I was about 225 when I first moved."
By the time Massaquoi entered his sophomore year, things all started to come together. As a bigger stronger version of his former self, he had established himself as a starter. Form that point many predicted great things for him on the horizon. Unfortunately, the season that had started with such promise was mired with disappointment. Key drops during the course of a few big games caused the normally confident player to start questioning himself. As his doubts began to snowball, his performance started to curtail more and more. That ultimately caused him to be relegated to the bench.
"It was a point in that season where I felt like I wasn't being the player that I always wanted to be, and I didn't know why," said Massaquoi. "I had some issues, but that still shouldn't have stopped me. That was supposed to be my introductory year. That was the year that I got the chance to start, and I didn't take advantage of the situation. I lost my starting job toward the end of the season. It definitely shook my confidence. But I regrouped in the offseason. I said, 'what can I do to make sure that doesn't happen again?' I just worked hard that whole offseason. I was in the weight room, I was catching balls after practice, running routes, trying to block dummy machines…I was doing it all. After doing that for a while, my confidence came back. When I hit that camp it felt like everything was second nature to me. I was just going off of reaction instead of trying to think about everything. I think I thought too much that year."
Massaquoi's road back wasn't one that he traveled alone. A couple staff members aided him in identifying the trouble areas in his game so that they could be corrected. "Coach Malone really helped me through it," Massaquoi said. "He sat down with me a couple of times and we looked at some things that I wasn't doing right. Then I had our film & development guy make a tape for me of all my drops and catches. I tried to see the things I did wrong and reasons for why I dropped the ball. Sometimes I'd be looking to run the ball before I caught it. Other times I wouldn't have my hands fully extended. There were just little things that I tried to correct in that offseason."
Check back for part two of our feature on Tim Massaquoi tomorrow.