Former Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, selected 42nd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, was among the first recruits signed by James Franklin upon his arrival in Happy Valley. He started 36 games for the Nittany Lions during his college career, catching at least one pass in each of the last 27 contests.
Gesicki, who set program position records for receptions (129) and touchdown catches (15), did most of his damage the last two seasons. After collecting 24 receptions for 239 yards and one score as a freshman and sophomore combined, he broke out during Penn State’s run to the 2016 Big Ten Championship.
His junior campaign featured 48 catches for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a highlight-reel score vs. Wisconsin in the conference title game.
Gesicki again proved to be one of college football’s most impressive pass targets in 2017. He erupted for 4 touchdown catches during the first two games last season, then scored five times in his final three Big Ten matchups.
The media named Gesicki a first-team all-conference selection following a senior season that featured career-best outputs in receptions (57) and touchdowns (9). His next trip to the end zone will occur in an NFL uniform.
Years before professional franchises considered investing in him, Gesicki was a three-sport star at Southern Regional (Manahawkin, N.J.) High School. Let’s quickly review the recruiting journey that led him to Penn State.
Gesicki was Mr. Do-It-All at Southern Regional, where he led the volleyball team to consecutive state championship runs (2013, 2014) and set a school basketball record with 1,867 career points. Providing a glimpse of leaps to come, Gesicki won the 2014 New Jersey high school dunk contest.
Early in his high school career, hoops was the main focus.
“I was all about basketball,” Gesicki told Mike McGarry of The Press of Atlantic City, shortly before he graduated in 2014. “I was basketball seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I was thinking about quitting football. I didn’t know I was going to play volleyball. A lot of things were up in the air. I eventually stuck it out with football — thank God I did.”
He emerged as an all-state selection on the football field, helping Southern Regional secure its first Shore Conference championship in more than 40 years. Gesicki graduated with more receiving yards (1,817) than any player in school history. He caught 103 passes, including 16 for touchdowns.
His college recruitment came down to a pair of Big Ten rivals — Ohio State and Penn State.
Soon after attending the Nittany Lions’ four-overtime victory over Michigan in October 2013, Gesicki committed to former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
“The hardest part about this whole process was telling [Urban Meyer] ‘no’,” Gesicki told me afterward. “He’s such a phenomenal head coach and football figure for the entire nation of college football. Telling him ‘no’ was a very difficult thing, but telling Coach O’Brien ‘yes’ was a phenomenal feeling.”
Despite the departure of O’Brien that December, Gesicki remained on board with Penn State’s 2014 recruiting class following the arrival of Franklin.
“When the whole coaching staff switched, my head was all over the place,” he told Chris Ryan of NJ.com. “I maybe considered it a little bit. But I’ve always, from the day I committed to Penn State, I’ve always told myself that’s where I want to go. And I wasn’t just going there for football. Obviously, that’s one of the main parts, but I’m going there for academics. I’m going there for the people.”
Watch Gesicki’s high school highlights here: