Mike Gesicki jotted down the same nine words in a notebook every single day during Penn State’s 2016 spring camp.
I’m the best tight end in the Big Ten.
Gesicki, now days away from his final game at Beaver Stadium, couldn’t help but reflect on Tuesday afternoon.
“If anybody ever read that, they would’ve laughed at me at that point in my life because you’re not even close to that,” Gesicki said, looking down at the media room dais before picking his head back up. “But I knew what I was capable of.”
Everyone knows Gesicki’s story. In his own words, everybody’s heard it “100,000 times.”
But Gesicki — a projected second- or third-round pick in April’s NFL draft, depending on where you look — was basking in the memories, good and bad.
The 6-foot-6 mismatch, a key cog in Joe Moorhead’s dynamic offense the past two seasons, was a social-media punching bag for trolls and angry fans in 2015. Five drops defined the then-sophomore, not his 13 catches. Gesicki’s confidence dwindled as did his targets.
The 2017 Mackey Award semifinalist actually said wideout DaeSean Hamilton’s favorite joke is that Gesicki and quarterback Christian Hackenberg, friends then and now, “were the duo that never happened” at Penn State.
But when his buddy Hackenberg moved on to the NFL, a new quarterback — and coordinator — entered Gesicki’s life. That worked out just fine, as Gesicki and Trace McSorley have connected for 10 touchdowns in the last 24 games under the direction of Moorhead.
Gesicki, who has a “great relationship” with Moorhead, thought back to a few weeks ago. He was joking with the coordinator at the Lasch facility, recalling his reaction when Moorhead was hired in in Dec. 2015.
“I was talking to Tommy (Stevens), and I was like, ‘Who is this guy? We’re bringing in the head coach from Fordham?’ I was expecting a big-name guy,” Gesicki said with a smile. “(Moorhead) was cracking up on the practice field when I was telling him, and he came back at me like, ‘I was looking at the film, and I was looking for a tight end that could catch the ball.’”
Turns out he’d be just all right. Gesicki had the best catch rate of any Penn State wideout or tight end in 2016 (67.6 percent) and leads the team this season (76.4), according to SportSource Analytics.
For the most part, though, this is all stuff Penn State fans know. He’s been open and honest about those tough times in 2015 before, and Tuesday was no different.
The only thing is — now at the tail-end of a career defined no longer by trials and tribulations, but by advancement and achievement — Gesicki owns the perspective of a guy about to move on.
“I could have packed it in,” Gesicki said. “But that’s not who I am. I’m a competitor. I had goals and aspirations. ... That’s something that I’m very proud of to hold with me and grow and develop and become the player I am.”