COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland sophomore tight end P.J. Gallo is a serious person, serious about his craft on the football field and just as serious about his future off of it.
So this summer when many of the Terps football players were in College Park working out, Gallo, he of the team-leading 3.95 GPA, participated in one of Maryland most prestigious and coveted summer internships, in finance with Raymond James.
And there he was mentored by two of the more serious Terps of recent vintage, former All-ACC offensive lineman Todd Wike and former tight end Brad Schell, who like Gallo both led their teams in GPA while student-athletes at Maryland.
"It was a great experience. It really opened my eyes to the whole world of finance," Gallo said this week after practice. "And I wasn't just filing papers or getting coffee, I did some really important things like putting client portfolios and IRAs together."
Gallo is just as diligent on the field, where this month in camp he is locked in a good battle for the top tight end spot with emerging freshman talents Andrew Isaacs and Derrick Hayward. There is also Eric Roca and Brian McMahon, all at a spot that is thinner and less experienced than ever entering a season at College Park in decades.
None have caught a pass in a game yet, while Hayward was a defensive end at this time last year. Roca and McMahon are former walk-ons, while new freshman signee Andrew Gray will likely redshirt.
But leading the way is Gallo, the unit's best blocker and go-to guy for now while the freshmen learn.
And the 6-2, 250-pounder worked just as diligently in the off-season in becoming a better pass-catcher after some bouts with inconsistency before.
"I caught a lot of balls this summer, worked on a lot of specific drills," Gallo said. "I would stand with my back facing the ball and they would release it and I would turn around and catch it. We also worked a lot of distraction drills as well. It helped a lot."
Gallo is the best blocker and in-line guy among the unit, while Hayward is a jumbo athlete who has added some 20 pounds to his 6-5, 235-pound frame. Isaacs may be the best all-around package (of size, athleticism and speed) with the highest upside among the unit. And according to Gallo, he's "become more quicker, more versatile, and just more of a well-rounded tight end."
"I think we are all coming along nicely, getting a little better each day," Gallo said of the young crew as a whole. "The job is up for grabs and we're all competing like you have to do at every position."
Gallo said what he brings to the unit, in his mind, is his "physicality."
"As Coach [John] Dunn likes to say, "toughness is not something you can teach," Gallo said of becoming a dedicated blocker. "I love being physical in goal line, in short yardage, being in there and smashing heads. I take pride in that."
Head Coach Randy Edsall is still evaluating the crew as a whole and where the depth will fall come the opener. All three have had their moments, and Gallo has appeared to come up with more contested balls over the middle in traffic than in other camps. Meanwhile, Hayward and Isaacs have flashed moments of brilliance with their ability to catch and run at times, while at others have had their share of drops.
"Well, P.J. is a guy who can line up on the ball and can also flex out," Randy Edsall said. "I think he is in a great competition with Andrew and Derrick, and again, it is going to be interesting to see how that all plays out. And P.J.'s got to keep improving because again, he's got great competition at that position."
Gallo said the physicality that he loves comes from some backyard brawls with his brothers, notably younger brother Eric, a freshman center at Virginia Tech this fall who Maryland recruited some but did not offer. His father also played football at Hofstra. Unfortunately the brothers won't be going up against each other again given the Terps conference change.
"Yeah, it would have been fun to have played against them, but I am very happy for him there at Tech," Gallo said.
Gallo also fine-tuned his footwork this summer, while he is on the Terrapin Council leadership committee. And he's been mentoring the young tight ends just as well.
"I have kinda taken them under my wings, in the playbook, if they have any questions about this play or this drill or what not," Gallo said. "Because some teams run two, three or even four tight end sets, so we're all working to become complete tight ends. The coaches will decide who or how many we'll use so we all just have to keep getting better and be ready."
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