Mike Gesicki Turns The Corner As More Complete Tight End
Mike Gesicki has always been a freak athlete, as evidenced by his ridiculous high-school basketball highlight reel, but learning to become a complete Big Ten tight end took some getting used to for the Manahawkin, N.J., native.
As essentially a jumbo wide receiver in high school, Gesicki had to learn the intricate aspects of in-line blocking his first two years on campus, but took it upon himself to prove that his growing pains are a thing of the past. The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Gesicki would routinely take extra time after practice to hit the blocking sleds by himself, much like J.J. Watt’s work ethic during Hard Knocks.
Gesicki got his junior season off to a fast start against Kent State, hauling in three catches for 49 yards — none bigger than his wide-open 30-yard touchdown grab to cap the scoring at 33-13 late in the fourth quarter.
“The three receivers on the opposite side ran the correct route and they had just the same chance as getting the ball as I did. And they were able to distract the defense a little bit,” Gesicki said of his second-career touchdown. “Trace did a great job putting the ball on me, and the rest of it’s history.”
Gesicki now finds himself the veteran of a young tight end group alongside redshirt junior Tom Pancoast, who was the next man up when expected backup Nick Bowers went down with a season-ending injury in preseason camp. The loaded stable of Penn State tight ends that Gesicki joined in 2014 is no more, as Jesse James is now the Steelers’ starter at the position, while undrafted free agent Kyle Carter didn’t make Minnesota’s 53-man roster. Brent Wilkerson, who started nine games last year, was dismissed from the team this spring and Adam Breneman came out of retirement to lace it up at UMass, where he caught two passes for six yards in a 24-7 Florida win in the Swamp.
Now that Bowers is out for the year, Gesicki’s guidance will become especially important for the rapid maturation of redshirt freshman Jonathan Holland and true freshman Danny Dalton, both of whom could certainly see significant playing time this fall. Gesicki accounted for more than 20 percent of his career receiving yardage through two seasons in just the first game of his junior campaign, but James Franklin noted that No. 88 could very well have had two touchdowns Saturday.
“We ran a little naked-type play, where it was a run-pass option to Mike Gesicki, who would’ve had two touchdowns, again who’s wide open,” Franklin said following the game. “Trace [McSorley] is rolling to his left; it’s an easier play going to your right, but the quarterback’s gotta be able to get his hips around and Trace threw that one into the ground. He just lofts it and it’s a wide-open touchdown.”
Gesicki has as good a chance as any to put together that awaited breakout season on offense, what with all the weapons at the skill positions — like Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin — for other teams to worry about too.