Tight end Mike Gesicki ranks among the most heavily recruited playmakers in the northeast. The 6'6", 235-pound prospect from Southern Regional High School (Manahawkin, N.J.) opted to pull the trigger on a commitment to Penn State on Thursday, becoming the 13th member of Bill O'Brien's 2014 recruiting class.
Gesicki spent his summer visiting several campuses, including Duke, Miami, Florida State, and Wisconsin. He is ranked the nation's No. 1 tight end prospect by 247Sports.
His choice ultimately came down to the Nittany Lions and Big 10 rival Ohio State.
The top target visited Columbus for the Buckeyes' Sept. 28 game against Wisconsin, where Gesicki watched LeBron James give a pregame speech. He was in Beaver Stadium on Oct. 12, when Penn State topped Michigan in a four-overtime thriller.
Bleacher Report caught up with Gesicki to discuss the decision and what he anticipates at Penn State.
Bleacher Report: You announced your decision to attend Penn State on Thursday night. What was it like to wake up Friday as a committed player?
Mike Gesicki: It felt good just to let it all out, let everybody know that I’ll be playing at Penn State next year… Very excited and very happy to announce that. And very relieved to get this whole process over with, but also blessed to be put in this situation…It feels great to finally know where I’m heading and to know that next year, and the following few years, I’ll be wearing that blue and white.
BR: What kind of reaction did you receive from the announcement?
MG: My phone was exploding. People saying congrats, some different fans tweeting at me saying I made the wrong decision. Everybody has their own opinion throughout this process.
BR: You were initially planning to announce a commitment to either Penn State or Ohio State at school Friday. Instead, you committed Thursday evening. Why the change in plans?
MG: I just decided I didn’t want to wait any longer. I didn’t want to second guess myself. I knew where I wanted to go.
BR: Once you made that decision internally, what came next?
MG: I called up Coach Urban Meyer and thanked him for the opportunity. He’s a great man and a great football coach. Just one day out there at camp with him, I learned a lot about football. I have the utmost respect for Ohio State, Urban Meyer and everyone that with that organization and university. The hardest part about this whole process was telling him “no”. 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.
BR: We’ll get to Penn State in a moment, but tell me about the recruiting process with Ohio State.
MG: Columbus, Ohio. That is Buckeye Nation right there. In Ohio, everybody is a Buckeye fan. They have a phenomenal fan base. They played a game out at California (Sept. 14) and half of Cal’s stadium was red. I really can’t say enough about Coach Urban Meyer. (When I told I’m going to Penn State) he handled it so professionally. He turned down a few guys, wanting me to be a Buckeye that badly. He’s been a phenomenal football coach, whether it’s being undefeated at Ohio State or at Florida, winning two national titles and going to so many SEC Championship games. He just has a phenomenal football resume. I know that if I went there, he would’ve made me successful as well, but I think I made the right decision for myself.
BR: You spent your final official visit at Penn State earlier this month and attended the team’s overtime victory over Michigan (Oct. 12). What ultimately punctuated your recruitment and convinced you that Penn State is the place to be?
MG: Watching that game, sitting right there in the first row at the 45-yard line, was unbelievable. That atmosphere with the “white out”, you really can’t say enough about Happy Valley. Beating Michigan, a ranked and undefeated team, it was crazy. I was very happy to say I was at that game. To be honest, I loved every second of it, but that had nothing to do with why I committed to Penn State. The real reason why I committed was I felt so comfortable at that school on my visit. I felt like those are the kind of guys I want to surround myself with for the next 4-5 years.
BR: Which Penn State players did you particularly spend time with?
MG: My hosts were (freshman tight end) Adam Breneman and (freshman quarterback) Christian Hackenberg. They’re such down-to-earth guys. You would not know that Hack is the starting quarterback at Penn State at 18 years old and leading the Big 10 in passing. He’s so humble and just a normal guy. Those are the kind of guys I want to surround myself with. I see myself being a Penn State guy. For me, defining a Penn State guy is down-to-earth, humble and when they need to turn it on, they turn it on and win football games. That’s really what I’m all about. When I’m off the field, I’m just a normal guy. But when I’m on the field, I’m a competitor. When it came down to it, I had to follow my heart and follow my gut and that’s where it told me to go.
BR: Both Breneman and Hackenberg ranked among the top 2013 recruits and have made an early impact. These guys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. How excited are you to be able to grow up with them in this young offense?
MG: Hack is a phenomenal quarterback and an even better person off the field. Breneman is working his way into the lineup. Knowing that I can play three years with Christian Hackenberg, the sky is the limit for him under Coach O’Brien in that offense. Coach coached Tom Brady with the Patriots, and it really doesn’t get any better than that. Coach knows exactly what he’s taking about when it comes to quarterbacks, tight ends and the passing game. I think I fit in phenomenally there. Being able to play with a quarterback like that is a huge factor. As a tight end, receiver, whatever you want to call me, you’re not getting the ball unless you have somebody high quality throwing it to you.
BR: You mention the fact that you’re capable of playing multiple positions. Based on conversations you’ve had with Coach O’Brien and his staff, how do you think you’ll be implemented in the Nittany Lions offense?
MG: I think I’ll be split out. I think I’ll be in the slot, in the backfield, sometimes attached. Honestly, I think I’ll be able to learn and grow in any spot in the passing game. Originally, they didn’t know if I was fast enough to split out and get down the field, but (tight ends coach) John Strollo came to our game this year. He saw me get behind the defense and run a post route, separate myself and show a little speed. They see me as a receiver, as a tight end, doing a lot of great things in that offense. I don’t see myself as a tight end or wide receiver. I see myself as a playmaker.
BR: Now that you’ve made a decision, what’s your main focus?
MG: It’s one less thing to worry about. I’m not going to lie, I was very stressed out. I was second-guessing myself every morning. One day I wanted to go to Ohio State, the next second I wanted to go to Penn State. I’m not looking back, I’m only looking forward. I’m so happy I made that decision. Now it’s just playing for Southern Regional and playing for my community. I can’t wait to finish this season with a bang. I want to create a legacy. Not just for me, but for the entire team.