Gesicki Receiving Big-Time Interest

Penn State among the schools that have stopped in to learn more about the record-setting Class of 2014 pass-catcher from New Jersey.

It was a tough spot for Mike Gesicki in his early middle school years. Though he longed to play football, his parents would not allow him to step on the gridiron.

When eighth grade rolled around, his parents relented. While he would grow to be the 6-foot-6, 215-pound tight end he is today, Gesicki got his start at another position -- quarterback. In time, however, Gesicki found his true calling as a pass-catcher, and now is blowing up the recruiting scene at Southern High (Manahawkin, N.J.).

He is a member of the Class of 2014.

“This past season was only my fourth year playing, so I'm still learning the game. My parents initially didn't want me to play, but I finally convinced them,” Gesicki said. “My dad played football, and when I was younger all my friends played football, but I just played basketball. But once they decided to let me play, I just kept learning the game progressively, and now football comes naturally to me.”

The three-sport athlete has already dumped in 1,000 points over his varsity basketball career for the Rams, and he toils on a different court in the spring -- playing volleyball. His athleticism and love of basketball is an added boon on the football field, and he credits it for his quick acclimation to football.

“The only way I could get on the field was at wide-receiver, so I moved there, and it just kind of came to me to run out and get open,” Gesicki said. “My route-running and all of that is still getting better, but I understand the picture now.

“I think my best skill is how I catch the ball with my hands and not let it come in with my body,” he added. “I go out and make a play before the defensive back can get the ball. It's like going up for a rebound. You don't go up for a rebound and grab it with your body. You go up strong and get it with your hands. You never know what's going to happen when you let it come in, whether it will bounce off your pads or hit your hands and get intercepted. I just try to make a strong catch with my hands, and not let the defender make a play.”

It's worked. Gesicki hauled in 50 passes for 986 yards and 11 touchdowns this past fall, as the Rams went 9-4, losing to Williamstown 43-20 in the NJSIAA South Group 5 title game.

“The catches and receiving yards were both a record that stood for 43 years, and I broke the catches in a season record by eight, which is pretty cool,” Gesicki said. “A lot of people think playing receiver is running and being fast to get open, but it's a lot of technique. A lot of it is mental, and you just have to be a smart receiver and run crisp routes to be successful.”

His banner season is already getting him noticed. Holding offers from Rutgers, Boston College and Old Dominion, as well as interest from Temple, Maryland, Arizona State and Wisconsin, the tight end ran into Penn State linebackers Ron Vanderlinden and head coach Bill O'Brien when the duo stopped by Southern High two weeks ago.

The coaches could only say hello to the prospect. But they spent plenty of time with Gesicki's coach.

“Coach O'Brien told my coach that he wants me to come down in the spring and look around and sit in his office and watch some film, so that's pretty exciting to have a chance to do that,” Gesicki said. “He told my coach that I would fit into the offense like the [Aaron] Hernandez's and [Ron] Gronkowski's of the Patriots, and the guys like Kyle Carter already at Penn State. Their offense is cool. It allows you to be down in a three-point stance, or spilt out wide, or in the backfield. Just all over the place; it's pretty exciting. I hope I get an offer from them. “

Gesicki learned some about the Nittany Lions when he visited Beaver Stadium in October, when the Nittany Lions dropped a 35-23 affair against Ohio State.

“I've seen it on TV and stuff, that they have unbelievable crowds and that the environment is crazy, but seeing it up close and personal first hand, it was cool,” Gesicki said. “The place erupts when there is a big play, and continues to be loud. It energizes you and changes the momentum when 110,000 people are yelling and screaming, which is a huge factor. I'm starting to see what Penn State football is all about, and it's pretty cool.”

As winter and basketball turns into spring and volleyball, Gesicki will begin picking and choosing what visits and camps he wants to make and attend. But for now, his focus is squarely on improving and breaking down the schools showing him the most interest.

“First thing I'm looking at is academics, just in case football doesn't work out for me. I also look at the way I would fit into a school, and of course their system,” Gesicki said. “I'm not going to go to a school that primarily runs the triple option; I have to fit into the offense. I also want to go somewhere that I fit in with my teammates and coaches, and that I like it, because it's where you're going to be for the next four or five years of your life.”

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