Gesicki Penn State’s New Kid On The Block

The sophomore tight end is working hard to add a key attribute to his impressive skill set.

Meet Mike Gesicki

When New Jersey standout Mike Gesicki committed to Penn State in October of 2013, he was considered the best tight end in the East and the 11th-best player at his position in the nation.

Yet at the time, he was not a tight end at all.

Sure, he would finish his career at Southern Regional High in Manahawkin, N.J., with a school-record 1,817 yards and 16 touchdowns on 103 catches. But how many blocks did he throw in the prep ranks?

“Zero,” Gesicki said with a smile recently.

“He didn't (block) before,” PSU offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan added. “He played wideout in high school. We busted his chops on that a little bit, that now he's gonna have to play with his hand on the ground.”

Gesicki admitted that he was a novice when it came to blocking.

“Before I got to Penn State, I never put my hand in the dirt,” he said. “I was always in a two-point stance. First practice, Coach Donovan said, 'All right, get down in a three-point stance.' I kind of looked at him and I was like, 'I don't really know the actual fundamentals of getting down in a three-point stance.' ”

Gesicki's learning curve as a tight end was accelerated when sophomore Adam Breneman had to undergo knee surgery last preseason and was lost for the year. Suddenly, the true freshman could not be eased into a mix that also included veterans Jesse James and Kyle Carter.

“Coming in, my goal was to play,” Gesicki said. “That was something I really wanted to do, it was something I set my mind on. Then when they told me I wasn't gonna redshirt and I was gonna be in there, I knew my role was gonna be to play hard, play fast and, most importantly, know my job.”

He finished the year with 11 catches for 114 yards, including connections of 29 yards (vs. Indiana) and 30 yards (vs. Michigan State) from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Looking back, the entire season was a learning experience.

“Just understanding a college offense and our offense, it was something that was difficult for me at first,” Gesicki said. “As the season progressed, I felt more comfortable out there. Not only because of the experience, but because the guys around me -- Kyle, Jesse and even Adam, who wasn't playing -- helped me out. Hack helped me out. Any guys who were out there really helped me out. It definitely showed throughout the rest of the season.”

Being the new kid on the block -- or the new kid trying to block -- was the biggest challenge.

“I was starting from scratch,” Gesicki said. “I think the only way to go from there is up, the only way to go from there is to get better.”

Gesicki has spent a lot of time reviewing film from last season, seeing areas where he could improve. He does not shy away from self-criticism.

“I wasn't a very successful blocker last year,” he said. “I wasn't strong enough. That was nobody else's fault besides myself.”

To help change that, he's aggressively gone about re-shaping his 6-foot-6 frame. He weighed 227 pounds when he arrived at Penn State last summer. By the end of his first season, he checked in at 235.

By the end of spring ball, he was up to 257.

“I put on 22 pounds this off-season,” he explained. “Got stronger, got bigger, got faster. That definitely helped me with blocking. And I understood that it's going to be a dogfight when you go in there and block somebody. So I've got the right mentality to do so.”

As of the winter, Gesicki held the Penn State tight end records for the 40-yard dash (4.69), NFL shuttle (4.07), vertical jump (38.5 inches) and broad jump (10-6). If he can add some level of blocking ability to that skill set, look out.

“He's made a very concerted effort to try to get better at (blocking),” Donovan said. “If he's able to do that the way he's going, he'll be even more of a threat than just being a guy who can play outside and is a big-bodied kid. Now he can play inside and do some of that as well as being able to be matched up with linebacker types in the pass game.”

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