Feb. 22, 2006
By Scott MacDonald
One day in the Woodruff Dining Hall, All-American and school record holder in the 35-pound weight throw Ian Brewer and Atlantic Coast Conference shot put champion Zeb Sion noticed a 6 foot, 5 inch, 260-pound man. That man, Eric Massey, a former club lacrosse player at Georgia Tech, was approached by Brewer and Sion about possibly throwing.
“A couple of throwers saw him in the Student Center and noticed how big he was,” said throws coach Allen Bradd. “They asked him if he played football and he said no, and they asked him if he had ever tried throwing, and he said no, and they told him he should.”
Massey, a native of Gainesville, Fla., helped lead the club lacrosse team to a national title in 2004 and decided to step away from the sport to concentrate on academics. Then, he was bored and when asked to try out for the Yellow Jacket track and field team, he said why not?
“I stopped playing lacrosse to focus on my senior year and academics, but then I was really bored,” said Massey. “So when they asked me to try out, I was all for it.”
A couple of days later, Massey went into throws coach Bradd’s office to inquire about trying out for the team. Bradd invited him out and liked what he saw, potential.
“On the second day, I could tell he was going to be very good,” said Bradd. “He’s pretty athletic and a powerful guy so he never struggled with the weight difference of 35 pounds. There’s no doubt it was somewhat natural for him but that’s because he works so hard. We did a lot of training and he was putting in the work of two to three guys combined.”
Massey played a lot of sports growing up, including baseball, basketball and football in high school. Then in the 10th grade, he quit baseball and football to concentrate on basketball, his favorite sport. Not a bad choice, Massey earned Gainesville Sun All-Area honorable mention honors in his junior and senior seasons and was selected to play in the Florida All-Star game.
“I wanted to play basketball here at Tech,” said Massey. “I was going to try out the year after the final four, but things did not work out.”
Still on the flats, just across the street from the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the George C. Griffin Track, Massey has excelled. The redshirt senior broke the Tech school record in the weight throw, held by Brewer, earlier this indoor season with a personal-record mark of 62 feet, 2 inches.
“Actually, I’m not going to lie, when I first walked on, I immediately looked up the record and told myself I was going to break it,” said Massey.
“It’s really incredible, and he’s only five centimeters from qualifying for the NCAA Championships,” said Bradd. “That’s unheard of, and it’s a great story. He trains like he’s been doing this his whole life and he’s so dedicated to it.”
Last season, Massey finished 10th in the weight throw at the ACC Indoor Championships. He currently stands sixth in the ACC and will compete in the event on Friday, Feb. 24th, at 1 p.m.
“It’s probably the best weight conference in the country right now,” said Bradd about the ACC. “I know three of the top 10 guys in the nation are in our conference.”
With last year in the books and a more consistent indoor season under his belt this year, Massey feels he can improve on his 10th-place finish in 2005 in Blacksburg, Va., despite competing in the top throws conference in the nation.
“I’m definitely up to the challenge,” said Massey. “I feel like I could’ve done better last year. I wasn’t as technically sound as I should’ve been. So this year I have the confidence that I can break into the finals.”
“Well, I just want to see him PR,” said Bradd. “He’s already done more than what we thought he could, and if he’s technically sound, I think he can PR by two to three feet. He’s been pretty consistent but he hasn’t looked as good technically as I know he can. If he can put it all together, he can throw so much farther than he has already.”
By doing so, Massey would almost certainly improve on his school record and post a NCAA Provisional mark for the NCAA Indoor Championships. That mark, just two inches shy from his PR, 62 feet, 4 inches.
“My goal has always been to make nationals,” said Massey.
If he were able to accomplish that feat, he would again make history at Georgia Tech, becoming the first athlete in the history of the program to advance to nationals in the weight throw.
During his first ever season as a thrower, Massey qualified for the Outdoor NCAA Regionals in the hammer throw with a personal-best mark of 189 feet, 5 inches, at the Florida Relays.
“It was pretty exciting because the meet where I qualified was in Gainesville (Fla.), which is where my parents and some of my friends live,” said Massey. “It was good to get the experience of being in the Regionals and I hope to get the chance to go to Nationals. My goal is to be an All-American.”
Pretty lofty goal for somebody who just picked up the sport a season ago. But, then again, in just 17 months of throwing, Massey holds a school record and the second-best mark in the hammer throw in Tech history (189-05).