There are plenty of criticisms over Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki. Nothing more than a big wide receiver. Hands aren’t good enough. Game isn’t well-rounded like it needs to be.
And all he’s done is spend the last two years proving those doubts wrong. It was a college career that began slowly. Two seasons, 24 passes, and too many drops. Blame it on playing in a pro style offense, finding his football footing. The criticism, even then, was unwarranted in his mind.
“Three years ago, my sophomore year, 2015, dealt with a little bit of adversity,” Gesicki said at the podium of yesterday’s Senior Bowl media day. “Had five drops. People blew it up to make it like it was 50.”
Part of the issue, he admits, was getting into his own head, overthinking and ironically, losing concentration. A domino effect, quicksand, one bad player that stacked another. He used the offseason to breathe and do some different drills, including one catching tennis balls, to not just cut down on those drops but eliminate them.
“Just went into that offseason. Did everything in my power that it would never happen again. Did not drop a ball my junior year, had 48 catches. And technically didn’t drop a ball my entire season year. I count one just because I’m hard on myself. So that’s 105 catches with no drops. So I’m over that.”
His final two seasons in Happy Valley were about as dominant as a tight end can play. Over 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even in those low moments, Gesicki rose above the fray. He said despite a crushing loss to Michigan State in 2017, it was one of the best games of his career.
Now, he’s got to convince scouts of the same. Not as much as a receiver, he’s clearly proven that ability, but as a blocker. He thinks he’s good enough there and when asked about his run responsibilities, rattled them off with complexity and ease.
“We had the best back in college football this year. We’re going to give him the ball and try to create plays for him. So I was definitely involved in the run game. There were some times where I had to make some calls in terms of where we’re working to in terms of the tackle. If they’re deucing so I’m singled up on the defensive end. Whatever it was, I definitely had some run responsibility.”
Should the Steelers bring Vance McDonald back, tight end won’t be high on their list; at least, not high enough to grab Gesicki where he’s likely to go. Which is a testament to his talent, sitting near the top in a deep tight end class, even looking at just who is in Mobile alone.
Whatever he has to pick up in the league will have to be done on the fly. If it’s anything like his interview on the podium, the lights, camera, action of media day, he’ll do fine. After his podium session ended, and he was about to leave to go to practice, I heard him tell a Senior Bowl staff worker he didn’t even know there was a media session, let alone that he was speaking center stage. The schedule said it was just lunch.
He may not be the perfect prospect. But what he does well he absolutely excels at and he’s better than popular opinion in the areas where he’s less successful. This, of course, is the week to prove it, and with injuries to two tight ends already – including Dallas Goedert, who had a strong Day One – he can separate himself from the rest.