An NFL Career Now Reality, Mike Gesicki Ready to Get to Work

May 09, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

April 27 is a day Mike Gesicki should remember for the rest of his life – a moment when the world stood still as he was being selected by the Miami Dolphins, an NFL career becoming reality.

“When I was told I was being picked, I just reminisced about everything I had gone through and everything leading up to that moment,” he said. “I’ve always envisioned myself in that moment. It was something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life, and it was a great experience to live that moment.”

Since Gesicki was a young boy, his parents, Mike and Donna, have always been on the sidelines cheering for their son, not missing a single game along the way. They, too, were excited to see that moment play out, as family and friends gathered inside the Gesicki home.

“From his time at Southern, then at Penn State, it’s been an exciting journey,” said Donna, who has a whole wardrobe of fan gear to prove the depth of her support for wherever her son ended up. “We really enjoyed the time he had at Penn State because that was like a storybook college career with a fairy tale ending. So, when he got the call from the Dolphins, we were just really happy for him. We were all so full of emotion. We all went nuts.”

Now a new journey begins, one that will involve more grit, determination and hard work than anything Gesicki has experienced to date. Already, just two weeks after being drafted 42nd overall in the second round, Gesicki has a playbook to start etching into his memory bank, a workout plan to adhere to, and not much time before he starts taking the field for preseason camp.

“Absolutely, the first goal is to make the roster,” he said. “I don’t want to look too far ahead. Nothing’s guaranteed, and I have to go down to Miami with a chip on my shoulder and earn a job.”

At Southern, Gesicki had all kinds of success, whether it be on the football field or the basketball and volleyball courts. As a 12-varsity-letter athlete, Gesicki is considered one of the best – if not the best – all-around athlete to put on a Southern uniform.

When he got to Penn State, there was no doubt about his athletic ability or his work ethic. But by his sophomore year, Gesicki realized he was nowhere close to being an NFL-caliber player, despite his talent and willingness to take on any challenge that came his way.

“My sophomore year was tough stuff,” he said. “I had a really rough time that year, faced a lot of adversity, and I had to take a long, hard look at myself and figure out what I was going to do to make myself into the player I wanted to be.

“A lot of people look at me now and probably think, ‘Oh, he’s made it. He was a second-round pick and this, that, everything’s great.’ But it hadn’t always been that way. I had some dark days, and I pride myself in the fact I went through that adversity and got through it, because it made me who I am today.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t trying or working hard, but I realized I had to work even harder if I wanted to achieve what I wanted to achieve.”

His personal wake-up call led to two of the most remarkable seasons for a tight end at PSU in the program’s vast and successful history, as he became a record-holder in multiple categories, including career receptions, yardage and touchdowns. Gesicki became one of quarterback Trace McSorley’s first options in the passing game, as the Nittany Lions soared to the top of the rankings, winning a Big Ten championship and playing in the Rose Bowl along the way.

“My goal throughout college was to be the best tight end in the country,” he said. “I wrote that in my notebook every day: ‘I’m the best tight end in the country.’ That’s something I put into my mind every day, and now I want to be the best tight end in the NFL.”

No doubt Gesicki has the size, leaping ability, hands and athletic skill level as a pass receiver to be among the best in the game. But as the NFL draft neared, the chatter among scouts and analysts stopped there – the biggest knock on him being his blocking ability. One analyst prior to draft day even went so far as to call Gesicki’s blocking ability “atrocious.”

Gesicki doesn’t run from the criticism, though.

“If I sat here and said I wasn’t ready to get better, then this is the wrong job for me,” he said. “I’m always going to have things to improve upon, and blocking is definitely one of those things I have to improve upon. But I’m not worried about too much criticism. For me, it’s really all about self-evaluation and listening to my coaches. I’m pretty good at blocking outside noise, listening to what the coaches have to say and focusing on my game.

“College was kind of like my job interview, and now this is my job. Now I’m going to be doing this every day until I decide I’m not doing it anymore, so I’m going to put anything and everything into this. I know what I’m capable of, and I know the goals and aspirations I have for myself, so I’m going to put it all out there.”

Of course, it will help Gesicki immensely to be surrounded by several seasoned professionals who can show him the ropes, offer advice and bring him along. In fact, he’s looking forward to spending time with quarterback Ryan Tanehill, who’s been in the league six seasons, and veteran wide receiver and proven winner Danny Amendola, the former New England Patriot recently signed as a free agent.

“When I got drafted, Ryan texted me and said they were happy to have me, and that if I needed anything to let him know,” Gesicki said. “It’s cool to know the starting quarterback is there for me. Then there’s Danny Amendola, who’s won a bunch of Super Bowls and has a ton of experience, and that’s a guy I want to learn from. I’m going to latch onto these guys, see what they’ve done to be successful, take any advice I can from them, and then implement that into what I do in the NFL.”

On May 10, Gesicki heads to Miami for some preliminary things, then will be home for a short time before going back toward the latter part of June to begin workouts prior to preseason camp. In the meantime, in between studying sections of the playbook, Gesicki will focus his mind on a future in the NFL – most likely with a smile.

“I can envision the next 15 years, for sure,” he said. “Every single day is going to be like a dream come true. I don’t have to sit behind a desk from 9 to 5. I get to go to work in shorts and a T-shirt, work out and play football. It’s awesome to have a job like the one I have now, and I’m excited to get to work.

“I know I have a ton of work to do, and I’m not going to sit here and say I’m better than anybody right now. But I aspire to be the best tight end in the league. And whether it takes five years or 15 years, that’s the mindset I’m going to have as an individual. And with that, I’m going out there to help my team win football games.”

— David Biggy

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