It’s the dream of virtually anyone who puts on shoulder pads to play in the National Football League.
Mike Gesicki’s dream has come closer to reality.
The former Southern Regional High School standout was chosen 42nd overall and 10th in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. His name was called at 7:54 p.m. Friday, April 27 at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Gesicki said. “I know I’m exactly where I belong. I definitely need to continue to improve my run blocking and all that stuff. Obviously, my best attributes are in the passing game. I need to develop on the other side, but it is something I am so excited about. I have great coaching there and I’m really excited just to get to work and do what I know I can do.”
Gesicki, a senior at Penn State where he played four seasons for the Nittany Lions, was selected as a tight end. He’s a 6-foot-5, 247-pounder. Former Miami center Dwight Stephenson, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 after playing for the Dolphins from 1980-87, announced Gesicki’s selection from the podium. Gesicki was the second tight end chosen in the draft.
Gesicki, a resident of the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township, is the first Penn State tight end to be chosen in the top 100 overall since Kyle Brady, whose name was called ninth by the New York Jets in 1995. He was among the Dolphins’ 30 pre-draft visits.
His selection followed that of defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who starred for the University of Alabama. They trained together in Pensacola, Fl., to prepare for the draft.
The Los Angeles Rams showed an interest in Gesicki’s talents – enough of an interest to dispatch head scout Steve Miller to talk to Eric Fierro, Southern’s offensive coordinator in football and its boys basketball coach. The two talked all things Mike Gesicki last Oct. 29.
An advertising and public relations major, Gesicki scored a 5.92 prospect grade at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts.
He performed in front of numerous NFL coaches, scouts and front office personnel – including general managers – in the 40-yard dash (4.54), bench press (22 repetitions), vertical jump (41 1/2 inches), broad jump (129.0 inches), three-cone drill (6.76 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.1 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.33 seconds).
“He’s got a unique skill set,” Miami general manager Chris Grier said. “He’s big. He’s long. He’s fast, high-points the ball really well. These tall guys…name a good tight end with those types of builds that are good blockers at the line of scrimmage. He said he wants to spend time working to improve his blocking because he wants to be the best all-around tight end in the game.
“Every kid says that coming out and we’ll see, but we’re very excited to have him.”
It’s the first time the Dolphins have selected a tight end as early as the second round since 1976 when they chose Loaird McCreary from Tennessee State. Miami has never chosen a tight end in the first round.
“Addressing that position and adding some competition was important,” Grier said. “It’s a matchup league. Gesicki’s got a unique skill set that not many people at his position have. Our offensive coaching staff, including tight ends coach Shane Day, is thrilled with the red zone possibilities and he’s a hard matchup for people, being that big and athletic. Move the chains on third down and then his speed will open up other stuff on the field for you. It is just a lot of possibilities.”
Gesicki was a second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection as a junior. He earned second-team All-America honors from several major outlets as a senior. He caught 57 passes for 563 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. He ended his Penn State career with 129 receptions for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Gesicki set the Nittany Lions’ career receptions record for a tight end, tying the single-season record with 48 before breaking it last season. He set Penn Satate’s record for tight ends with nine touchdown catches in 2017.
In mock drafts, The Washington Post’s John Harris and the Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier had the New Orleans Saints calling Gesicki’s name at No. 27 overall in the first round. The Atlanta Falcons’ team site previewed the possibility of Gesicki being drafted No. 26 overall.
“At the end of the day, I’ve just got to get one team to fall in love with me,” Gesicki said. “A team that’s like, ‘All right, we have a vision for him. We’re going to use him here and here.’”
ESPN and Scouts Inc. expert Steve Muench saw Gesicki as a second-round selection. Gesicki earned a Scouts Inc. prospect grade of 81, third-highest among tight ends behind South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst.
Here is Muench’s full analysis of Gesicki:
Strengths: “What he’s better at than the guys ahead of him is his ability to come down with 50-50 balls. His height, his length, his ability to elevate, these are all ridiculous things. His 34 1/80 inch arms; those are offensive tackle arms. To see his 41 1/2-inch vertical and at 6-foot-5 he has that kind of leaping ability, the thing I keep coming back to is, how do you defend that guy if you split him out wide in the red zone?
“He’s a matchup nightmare. I will say the 40 time surprised me a little bit. He ran a 4.54, and I don’t think he plays that fast. I don’t think he runs that fast on tape. But it’s certainly not going to hurt his cause. He can stretch the middle of the field and he can make plays. He’s average to slightly above average after the catch. The thing that sets him apart from everyone in the class is when you throw up a jump ball this guy’s got a better chance than anyone on the field to come down with it.”
Weaknesses: “It’s going to be his blocking. It’s interesting, too, though. We gave him an average on big-play ability, but it’s funny when you watch him on tape. He’s not as much of a big-play threat as you would think for a guy that size who runs a 4.54. That being said, he is a marginal blocker. He gets in the way, he gets into position and he can occupy his guy when he’s at his best. But he doesn’t have the strength to sustain. He’s not a guy who you’re going to line up in-line next to the offensive tackle in goal line or short yardage situations.”
Summary: “He’s going to be a Day 2 guy. But it only takes one team in the first round to fall in love with him. There might be the one team that thinks this kid – that thinks you won’t find a 6-foot-5 5 tight end that runs this fast with all these measurements. All it takes is one team. I don’t see it happening, but I don’t think he’ll get out of the second day. We have him at a back-end second-round grade.”
Gesicki is one of 18 NFL draftees who have reportedly signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
Gesicki was one of the nation’s most highly-touted tight ends after earning four varsity letters for coach Chuck Donohue at Southern.
He wound up as the Rams’ all-time leading pass receiver with 1,817 yards on 103 receptions with 16 touchdown catches. As a senior, he caught 33 passes for 530 yards and four touchdowns to earn Under Armour All-America, all-state and first-team all-shore honors.
Gesicki played in the U.S. Army All-American Game following his senior season.
He hauled in 50 passes for 954 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior when he was named first-team all-shore. As a sophomore, he caught 16 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns to help the Rams to an 8-2 overall record and the school’s first Shore Conference divisional title, Class A South, since 1972.
As a sophomore defender, he made 23 tackles and picked off six passes.
He was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals Scout and 247Sports and a three-star prospect by ESPN. He was rated as the top tight end recruit in the Class of 2014 by 247Sports and was ranked as a Top 15 tight end prospect nationally by ESPN, Rivals and Scout. He was also rated a Top 15 recruit in New Jersey by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports.
Fierro said Gesicki’s name was on the lips of Patriot League and Ivy League schools because of his football prowess.
“They were real interested in Mike,” Fierro said. “He had a breakout year as a sophomore in football. Prior to his sophomore year, his primary focus and love was basketball. During a workout when Mike was a freshman, he and I sat and talked and I said, ‘What is your dream?’ He said, ‘I want to play basketball for the University of North Carolina.’ He was a floppy haired freshman and I kind of laughed.”
Gesicki saw varsity action at wide receiver and punter for the most part. The Rams toyed with installing Gesicki as their starting freshman quarterback at the varsity level. However, they chose Daniel Higgins, who starred for the Rams and enjoyed a record-setting career at Bridgewater State.
“I spent a lot of time breaking down film with Mike from the quarterback perspective,” Fierro said. “During the first couple of repetitions, he jumped off the page as a wide receiver as a sophomore and he received all of this immediate attention from colleges. Bucknell worked him out. Princeton worked him out. Princeton showed a great interest and tried to also push him toward basketball. Duke offered him a full ride for football. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke men’s basketball coach) said, ‘If you come here for football, I will have a spot for you on the basketball team.’ ”
Fierro said he enjoyed coaching Gesicki and Higgins.
“For us to have the best quarterback in school history lining up with an NFL threat on the outside was pretty neat,” Fierro said. “We could not have done it without Dan. We could not have done it without Mike. It was like what came first – the chicken or the egg?”
Gesicki wound up choosing Penn State over numerous other schools, including Wisconsin, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Duke.
“In the end, it came down to Ohio State and Penn State,” Fierro said.
Gesicki also starred in boys basketball and boys volleyball for the Rams, earning a total of 12 varsity letters in the two sports.
He ended his career as the Rams’ all-time leading scorer in basketball with 1,867 points. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the East/West Basketball All-Star Game and won the 2014 state dunk contest.
During Gesicki’s senior season, the Rams pinned an upset loss as time expired in the fourth quarter on host Atlantic City – annually one of the state’s top teams – in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV Tournament in 2014. He broke Southern’s career scoring record in the game.
“It blows me away to watch all of the dunks and athletic plays that Mike made while he was here,” Fierro said. “We talked about the big game factor and he played hard in every game whether it was Tuesday night or Saturday morning or Saturday night. We walked into packed gyms that wanted to see the Gesicki show and the Southern Rams.”
He led the Rams to the NJSIAA state title and was named the 2013 New Jersey Player of the Year in boys volleyball
Hard work helped Gesicki get to where he is today.
During a break in the action of the NJSIAA volleyball tournament, Gesicki’s teammates dashed to a convenience store for food. Gesicki had none of that – he spent a large part of the lull lifting weights in the Rams’ gym.
Fierro recalled his basketball team’s trip to play at Walt Disney World in Orlando during Gesicki’s senior year.
“He broke out a two-pound bag of white powder that was protein,” Fierro said. “I asked him what it was for and he said, ‘Coach, there has to be a gym somewhere so that I can lift.’ He would not miss his lifting session. He got to his two-a-day lifting sessions.”
Fierro said Gesicki makes it a point to visit the Rams’ football and boys basketball teams despite his busy schedule.
“Each time he is home, the first place he stops is to see our teams,” Fierro said. “If he is home, he makes it a point to come to our youth football and basketball camps. He spoke to all of our basketball campers last summer during our first week of camp.
“Mike keeps in touch. He could have gone to a lot of different high schools. For him to stay at Southern shows where the priorities of Mike and his family are.”
Gesicki is the third Southern player coached by Donohue to be selected in the draft.
He joins Glenn Carson and Clark Harris. Carson starred at linebacker at Penn State and was chosen by the Arizona Cardinals. Harris, who sparkled at Rutgers University, is the Cincinnati Bengals’ long snapper. Harris played in the Pro Bowl – the NFL all-star game – earlier this year.
Editor’s note: centredaily.com, miamidolphins.com, and the Land of 10’s Stephen Pianovich contributed to this report.