All-time great running back Matt Massari to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
Editor’s note: This is the 12th installment of a 17-part series chronicling the 2018 Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame inductees. Check back to The Union sports pages each day for a new profile on a Nevada Union legend.
As the son of a football coach, Matt Massari was never far from the game.
“I grew up on the sideline,” Massari said. “It was great to grow up with a father that was also a coach. It just added so much to my life and the way I looked at things and did things.”
Massari’s love for the game started early and only grew, becoming all encompassing for him as a youth.
“Football was life, life was football,” he said. “It was just fun. It was a joy.”
Massari’s skill with the ball in his hands also grew and by the time he was at Nevada Union, he was ready to lead the Miners on the field and in the process put his name in the record books.
As an incredibly talented running back and defensive back, Massari was a standout right away and had an impressive career while wearing the Miners’ blue and gold. For his efforts on the gridiron, the 1998 graduate is being inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday.
At 5-foot, 8-inches, Massari was shorter than most featured backs, but what he lacked in height, he more than made up for in elusiveness and ability.
“He was such a quick and explosive runner,” said Dave Humphers, who coached Massari at Nevada Union. “He had good speed, but he had great lateral vision and instinct. He made people look silly, with the way he could pop laterally and run forward without slowing down.”
Massari left plenty of defenders in his wake during his time as a Miner. As a junior, he rushed for 634 yards with an 8.3 yards per carry average, helping the Miners go 9-1 and earn a share of the Capital Athletic League championship.
In his senior season, Massari shouldered the bulk of the carries and turned in a historic season, setting a then record for rushing yards in the regular season with 1,391. He scored 17 touchdowns that season and led the Miners to a postseason berth. He finished the year with 1,452 yards, which is fourth all-time in NU history.
Massari wasn’t just an offensive force. He was also an elite defensive back, earning All-CAL Second Team honors at cornerback his junior season.
After his senior season, Massari was named the CAL Offensive MVP, was named to the Sacramento Bee All-Metro First Team, was named an Optimist All-Star, won Nevada Union’s Jim Brown Award given to the team’s MVP, and also was the Ryan Mello Award/Scholarship recipient.
Other than playing the sport he loves with his closest friends, what sticks out to Massari most about those varsity years was the Miners’ rivalry with Grant.
“We had a huge rivalry with them, and we had some of our best games against them,” he recalled. “The environment was so hostile, but it was a great rivalry. We respected them and they respected us and that’s what made it great.”
After graduating from Nevada Union, Massari committed to attend and play football at UC Davis. His career at UC Davis got off to a rocky start, but by the time it was done, he found his way into those record books as well.
Ahead of Massari’s freshman year at UC Davis, he suffered an ACL injury and redshirted that first year. Massari eyed a return to the field the next season, but an injury to his other ACL took him off the field once again.
Undeterred by injuries and driven by his passion to play, Massari worked his way back from reconstructive surgeries on both knees and finally saw some playing time in 2001, and even earned the Causeway Classic MVP award that year after rushing 119 yards and a touchdown.
“I was determined to play,” he said.
Massari broke out the next year, rushing for 1,264 yards for the season, which is sixth in UC Davis history. Massari scored 11 touchdowns that season, which is tied for 10th all time at the school. The skilled running back also holds two top-10 single game rushing totals in school history, gaining 237 yards against Abilene Christian (sixth in UC Davis history) and 221 yards against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (ninth in UC Davis history).
Massari was named to the Division II All-American First Team that year, won the Causeway Classic MVP a second time and won the team’s Outstanding Back Award.
His 1,814 career rushing yards at UC Davis still ran eighth all-time at the school.
“Matt would be one of those guys whose the reason a coach should never tell a kid you’re not big enough to play in college,” Humphers said. “Not only was he a good college player, but a great one.”
Massari graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s degree in political science. He then earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oregon School of Law in 2007.
He currently works as business affairs director for Nike Football Sports Marketing, with a primary focus on signing NFL athletes to endorsement contracts.
Massari said he owes a lot of what he has today to the lessons learned on the field at Hooper Stadium.
“Hard work, commitment and work ethic are all things I learned at Nevada Union,” he said. “The game of football itself teaches you work ethic and commitment and character. It taught me so much.”
He also expressed gratitude to his father Mike and the many football coaches he had along the way that helped shape his work ethic as well as his love for the game.
Massari lives in Oregon with his wife Danielle and two children, Emma, 10, and Quinn, 9.
Massari said one of his newest joys is getting coach his son in football.
“Life’s come full circle for me for sure.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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