When Joshka Gustav arrived in San Bernardino from Germany three years ago with aspirations of excelling at American football, surprisingly, there was not a steep learning curve. Gustav was accompanied by his older brother.
"The weather was a little bit of a change for him because he came in the summer and it was real hot, around 100 degrees. He wasn't used to that," recalled Jordan Brusig, who has coached him at Aquinas since he came to the United States. "But it helped that his brother and him both spoke English very well and they are likeable guys, they are not too shy. They seem to draw a crowd so it wasn't too much of a struggle.
"We had him playing both ways right away, during his sophomore season, and he has done that over the last three years. To come here and do that right away was impressive. He has stayed committed to what we do and has been a good teammate and a good leader. We don't trust everyone to be able to play both sides of the ball, but what he has done here has been commendable."
Gustav had 302 more receiving yards than any other player in the Ambassador League in 2016 and he was named one of the top 10 offensive performers at the recent Under Armour All-American Southern California regional camp after working out at tight end. And while Gustav is listed as an athlete on Scout, Colorado and almost every other college has projected him as a linebacker.
"He is a big guy with a lot of range. He can cover a lot of ground," Brusig said of Gustav on defense. "He is not the fastest guy but he makes up for it with his athleticism and he is a smart player. He is really football smart. He knows a lot about the game and understands it. That is what really gives him an advantage, and he is getting stronger and getting faster. He works hard on improving that every day."
Oregon State and UNLV had also offered Gustav before he committed to Colorado on March 23. He was receiving growing interest from Notre Dame, San Diego State and Washington, among others. Brusig was not surprised when his star player pulled the trigger prior to the spring evaluation period.
"He always had a lot of interest in Colorado," Brusig said. "The thing we always talked to him about, and talk to all of our guys about, is if football wasn't an option, would you still want to live and go to school there? That has to be a big part of your decision, and he said he could see himself living there for four or five years. He liked the facilities at Colorado, liked the campus, and enjoyed the town of Boulder. We left it completely up to him and that is where he feels comfortable."
With his college decision made, Gustav will focus on trying to help Aquinas win a championship in 2017. They came close last fall. The Falcons lost to St. Anthony by one point in the CIF Southern Section Division 10 title game.
"We only lost three guys of last year's team so there are a lot of kids that are returning and that are hungry to get better and find an extra edge to make up the one or two extra points that would have gotten us over the hump last year," Brusig said. "With all the guys we have coming back, it is exciting getting ready for spring ball. It is going to be a lot of fun."