Ole Miss tackle in Ohio to improve standing

AVON, Ohio — Most NFL draft prospects spent last week in Mobile, Ala., practicing in front of NFL scouts and coaches and preparing for the Senior Bowl.

Bobby Massie spent the week in Cleveland, working to reach his goal.

“I want to be a first-round draft pick,” Massie said Monday morning, sitting in the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Academy in a Lorain County town more known for farms than football.

The eye test would say he is ready. Massie is a lean and chiseled 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds. Work and diet have helped him transform a body that had too much fat at the University of Mississippi into one that looks pro ready. Footwork drills have helped Massie improve his “kick slide” (backpedal), and he now feels ready to go to the NFL as a left or right tackle.

“I’m doing stuff I’ve never done before,” Massie said of his five-week stay at Bentley’s Academy. “That’s why I came up here instead of going to Florida or California.”

The Academy is run by Bentley, a Cleveland native and former Ohio State and New Orleans Saints center. Bentley turned to developing linemen when a knee injury and staph infection ended his career with the Browns before it started. He earned proper certifications and opened the only school for professional linemen in the nation.

Massie follows Bentley’s protocols, which Bentley said are designed for daily improvement. At 10 at night, Bentley sends a text to each participant saying what time to report the next day. It might be 11 a.m.; it might be 6:30. If a guy is out, he has to be on time the next day, or go home — and Bentley tells him he lost a day to get better.

Workouts are tailored specifically to offensive-line skills, with regular film study on NFL teams and linemen included. (One day this week was dedicated to former Seattle tackle Walter Jones.) Those who can’t keep up or don’t show up are sent packing. Alex Boone, a backup on the San Francisco 49ers, said working with Bentley can “change the world” for a young lineman like Massie, who left Ole Miss after his junior season.

“Bobby is here learning how to be a pro,” Bentley said. “He’s here in Cleveland because he wants to get better, he wants to work. You don’t come to Cleveland in January if you don’t.

“Some guys want to go and be treated like a rock star. He doesn’t want to be treated like a rock star. He could have gone anywhere and ridden around in a new car with a $100,000 credit line and not done the things to get ready to be a pro. But he’s acting and living like a pro.”

Bentley’s love is the offensive line, but he has watched as more and more young athletes are put on defense — at linebacker, rush end, safety. Meanwhile, offensive linemen have merely gotten bigger. He wants to combat the increased athleticism on the defensive side with the same on the offensive side.

A day at his academy includes four meals eaten two or three hours apart and put together by a nutritionist. Monday’s selections featured pork loin with cabbage; turkey meat loaf and broccoli; chicken marsala and spinach; and a chicken Caesar salad. A breakfast — no carbs — and supplements and shakes make up the rest of the day’s feast.

“I haven’t had anything fried in so long,” Massie said. “I used to like fast food, fatty food. That’s all gone now.”

It’s the reason he’s lost his love handles and pudgy rolls. Massie was a typical big lineman with athletic skills, a guy who used his size to win.

“I was big,” he said, “but I really wasn’t that strong.”

Now he has refined his physique, improved his skills and streamlined his body, and his approach. The difference is noticeable.

“His metabolic profile,” Bentley said, “has changed.”

Massie grew up in Lynchburg, Va., and played three seasons at Mississippi, starting 29 games at right tackle. When he considered the draft, he said he was told he should return for another year. His mother, though, lives in a poor area of the city.

“I just want to take care of her,” he said. “She’s been helping me my whole life.”

Massie did not make All-SEC, in part because the Ole Miss offense struggled. Three quarterbacks played, all with different styles, and they were sacked 31 times. NFL teams will love his size, but at this point the draftniks put him sixth or seventh among all offensive tackles — and behind Ohio State’s Mike Adams.

Most projections have him going in the third or fourth round, maybe in the second. But Massie will attend the NFL Scouting Combine, where he hopes to turn heads with more than his size.

 “I really wasn’t too privileged growing up,” Massie said. “Football is one way to change that. Being here, it’s a blessing. Not everybody gets the opportunity, and the people who do get it might not take advantage of it.”