Colin Massa has always tried to focus on the next step. He was more of a role player when he started in Lambert's lacrosse feeder program, so he set his mind on making the varsity team. After he did that, he focused on becoming a starter, then an all-state player, and then a college commit.
He accomplished all of those tasks, ending in a career at Mercer where he started all four years for the Bears. But there, Massa's next step was a little less clear. He wasn't ready to be done with lacrosse forever, but there aren't professional options in that sport like there are for baseball, basketball and football.
There is Major League Lacrosse, though. Professional lacrosse is still a niche sport, one that generally doesn't pay players enough for them to quit their day jobs, but Massa has decided to take a leap into that world. He was picked by the Denver Outlaws in the ninth round of this year's MLL Collegiate Draft, making him the second Lambert alum to be drafted by an MLL team. Defenseman Zack Price, a High Point alum, was picked in the league's supplemental draft in December.
"You kind of grow up watching and knowing all these pro players, and to be able to say that I've made it to the same league as some of those guys that I looked up to when i was younger is pretty special," Massa said. "It's definitely something I never expected that I would have the opportunity to say."
Massa was part of the first wave of players to represent Lambert, and his development wasn't spontaneous. Longhorns director of lacrosse Rich Wehman remembers Massa being the sixth-best defenseman in his own class, and he had to talk with Massa to assuage his frustrations.
"(The conversation) was just that, 'You're sixth today, but you're still young, you're still developing, and that picture can definitely change, and it probably will,'" Wehman said.
Wehman was right. Massa started growing into his tall frame, became more coordinated and worked incessantly on his stick skills and physical attributes. By the time his junior season rolled around, Massa had committed to Delaware.
"He was one of these guys that you could tell was going to eventually play in college, because he didn't really plateau," Wehman said. "Every year he got better ... and for guys that go on and play in college, that's typically how they are."
Massa spent a year with the Blue Hens, but he didn't find the school to be a good fit and wanted to be closer to home and his family back in Georgia. He transferred to Mercer, made multiple all-conference teams and wound up third in school history in turnovers caused, with 33.
When Massa decided that he wanted to pursue pro lacrosse, Bears head coach Kyle Hannan reached out to a few teams, but Massa didn't think he had more than a "slim chance" of being picked. Massa;s strength and on-ball defensive ability impressed the Outlaws enough to secure his rights, though.
Massa will head to Denver next weekend to practice with the Outlaws, but he isn't planning to relocate there. He recently started a job in Atlanta, and he also isn't yet on the Outlaws' active roster -- MLL teams can only have 19 players activated, but can retain the rights to more. So Massa is trying to stay sharp and in shape, following a lifting program that his college strength coach made him and playing when he can, in tournaments during the summer and occasional pickup games with college players in the area.
He's also helping coach the Atlanta Rage, a feeder program for Lambert, where Massa has the chance show players what can happen with hard work and commitment.
"They were the first group of guys that really put the work in and put the ceiling very high for themselves, didn't let people talk them out of that one day, they could do what they're doing today," Wehman said of Massa and Price. "I think it's great. They've kind of blazed the trail for the all the folks, and they've kind of set the culture for all the kids behind them in our program."