If there is a ball in the room, Manahawkin (N.J.) Southern Regional Top247 tight end Mike Gesicki has never wanted to be left out of playing in the game.
Gesicki is ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 4 TE in the class-of-2014.
Even if that meant playing with the girls.
As soon as he could walk, the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Gesicki was chasing his two older sisters around playing sports.
His father Mike Gesicki Sr. coached Ashley and Kelsey’s youth basketball teams and the younger Gesicki was out at practice scrimmaging with the girls.
“They played three times a week and he never missed a practice,” the elder Gesicki laughed. “We’d have to tell him to stop stealing the ball.”
When Ashley and Kelsey had volleyball practice, Mike was in the gym shagging balls and literally having a ball.
Gesicki’s passion for sports and his work ethic is well known throughout his community, so it comes as no surprise to folks around town that he’s developed into a three-sport All-State athlete (football, basketball and volleyball) and has his pick of the litter regarding many of the nation’s top college football programs.
Southern Regional head football coach Charles Donohue Sr. had caught wind of Gesicki prior to when he was even in middle school, but the up-and-coming talent really caught his eye on a random evening when Gesicki was in seventh grade.
“I remember one time coming out of the weight room, I drove by the practice field and he was punting the ball to himself," Donohue said. "He was punting the ball, running down the field and punting the ball back. From that standpoint, I could tell he’s an old-fashioned gym rat. On top of that he’s very talented.”
Gesicki has been invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Gesicki Sr. remembers watching Mike punt the ball back and forth as well.
“We live right next to the high school and he was practicing punting because he wants to be the best at everything he does, and that’s what his job was in Pop Warner, to be the quarterback and the punter.”
Gesicki won’t punt in college, but the athletic playmaker will be instrumental in keeping the punter off the field. He had a breakout junior season where he caught 50 passes for 954 yards and nine touchdowns. Ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 4 tight end prospect and No. 180 player overall, Gesicki has narrowed his list of scholarship offers to Duke, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
“On the field he’s obviously a tremendous matchup problem,” Donohue said. “He’s got that big-play ability where the kids believe when he has the ball in his hands something is going to happen. They’re very confident he’s going to come up with a big play because he’s done it since he was a sophomore.
“He’s the strongest athlete on our team. He’s just a good kid. As good an athlete he is, like I said he’s the old-fashioned gym rat. He’s either playing ball or lifting weights. He gives us a lot both on and off the field as far as representing our program.”
Gesicki first showed his clutch ability on the basketball court as a freshman, draining a pair of technical free throws late in a varsity game.
“I asked him after the game, were you nervous,” Gesicki Sr. said. “He said for what, I know I can do it. He said this is the time you wait for. It’s amazing his self-esteem and the confidence he has in himself. The bigger the game, the bigger the play, he just gets it. He loves it.”
The first college coach to actually love Gesicki was the Penn State volleyball coach Mark Pavlik. Gesicki was the South Jersey Player of the Year last season as a junior in helping his program win a state championship, and Pavlik recognized that kind of talent when he was a sophomore. That was Gesicki’s first year playing the sport organized. His two older sisters were state champions at Southern Regional themselves.
Gesicki at Florida State camp. He got to visit all of his top schools during the summer including the Noles.
“The No. 1 (ranked) player in the state is going to Penn State on a full ride,” Gesicki Sr. put into perspective. “He plays volleyball 365 days a year and is going to Penn State. Mike doesn’t pick up a volleyball except during volleyball season. Penn State showed interest in him as a sophomore and sent him a letter. I said to Mike, what a great way to get a scholarship and go through life and you’ll be able to walk when you’re 40. He said dad, I like volleyball, but I love football and I love basketball.”
College basketball coaches love Gesicki too. He averaged 18.3 points and snagged 9.3 rebounds with 3.1 blocks per game as a junior.
“Miami said they will let him play both,” Gesicki Sr. said. “Duke, we met with Coach (Mike) K(rzyzewski) (a few) weeks ago, and he said basketball and football are both there. When we were sitting down with Urban Meyer and we told him Miami offered for basketball and football, he asked do you want me to make a call and he can play basketball here.
“He would like to play both as a 17-year old kid. Thinking about can he do it, what kind of wear and tear would it be on his body. He’s very determined. If you tell him he can’t do something, he’ll prove you wrong. He just loves the challenge, sports and academically also.”
An honor-roll student that is also active in the community and at his school, Gesicki got a chance to visit every college program still on his list during the summer. Duke recently flooded his mailbox with 115 letters in one day. He’s keeping in touch with coaches on each staff and plans to use his official visits during the fall and winter before making a college decision.
“It’s overwhelming at times,” Gesicki Sr. said. “We’ve learned that as long as you keep it all in perspective, if you understand it’s more about my son and who’s going to take care of him and where he’s going to go and get respected more as a person, than who you’re getting a chance to meet and talk to, than it’s not a bad deal. It’s nice to be looked at and it’s nice to have everyone want you.
“He doesn’t like to speak about it to anybody. Other recruits, he’ll talk to about it with, but friends of his will ask him what it’s like and he’ll want to quickly change the subject and be like what did you do when I was gone. He says it’s not fair for me to talk about something they’re not going through or won’t go through, and he doesn’t want to come across boisterous.”
One thing that is evident about Gesicki, is his hard work and desire made it all happen.