University of Massachusetts linebacker Kassan Messiah finished his collegiate career with over 60 tackles in three out of four seasons. Now the fierce pass rusher feels he is ready take the next step towards the NFL.
Messiah grew up in a structured, family oriented, single parent home in Orange, New Jersey, as the middle child. Through his upbringing, Messiah learned resiliency, humility, leadership and respect, both giving and earning. His four years of playing college football taught him how to be a professional and to a student of the game, all while with an extremely high motor and an all-important Alfa Dog mentality.
His time at UMass wasn’t without adversity. After standing out amongst the pack as a freshman with 65 tackles in 2012, he suffered through a sophomore slump and was even benched. It was that year where Messiah learned that leaders aren’t simply anointed. They rise to that title.
“My Sophomore season, coming off a productive true freshman season,” Messiah said. “As a young leader on defense I was expected to take on more responsibility. I was sidelined. It forced me to take a step back. To self evaluate and understand that defense is about more than making plays. It is about all eleven guys executing what is called. It was more than the classic case of bumping heads with my defensive coordinator, not allowing me to play for the right or wrong reasons. I got through my learning curve with a positive frame of mind. It made me a better football player.”
He rebounded in a big way as a junior with 69 tackles. Besides learning a great deal from his coaches, his old teammate, tight end Rob Blanchflower taught Messiah by example on how a great player conducts himself on the field.
“I have learned [from Blanchflower] every time you step on the football field you have to play like it’s your last,” Messiah said. “You have set an example for the guys around you and most importantly, that the game is played above the shoulders.”
Messiah has the distinction of playing throughout all four of the Minutemen’s seasons in the Mid-American Conference. It was also their first four seasons as an FBS program. UMass went 8-40 during that time period but despite their initial shortcomings, Messiah believes that his college program is in far better shape now compared to his first day on campus.
“Coming in, the program was making the transition to FBS football from the FCS,” Messiah said. “We have been apart of the Mid-American conference for my entire four year career at the university. The blood, sweat, and tears of the class I came in with until now have propelled this program. We have laid a foundation for our future brothers and I am excited. Now competing independently in the FBS. The University of Massachusetts is light years ahead of where it once was.”
With leadership as his strongest attribute, Messiah may start out as a project, but could very well end up emerging as the leader of an NFL team’s defense .