Adam Gress — a starter on Penn State’s offensive line in 2012 and 2013 — may have been overshadowed by the likes of Donovan Smith and John Urschel. But as a lineman and member of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter, Gress left his mark in Happy Valley.
The West Mifflin native and former New York Giants lineman discussed Andrew Nelson’s legacy, Lift for Life and more in this week’s “Five Questions.”
Q: You and Andrew Nelson overlapped for a season in 2013. He hasn’t played much this year, but he’s been a fixture in the program for a while. What do you think his legacy is? Just being there for so long.
A: Andrew’s a great guy to have on the team regardless. Injuries have plagued him, and it’s unfortunate. Even my senior year, he was second-string; he was ready to go, ready to play, and I think football held a big future for him. But he’s been pretty beat up by injuries over time, which is unfortunate. In terms of a legacy, I know he does a lot of stuff in terms of philanthropy. He’s a big force in the community. He’s also a religious individual with that portion of the team. He does a lot of good stuff.
Q: What was your first impression of him and getting to know him? What’s maybe your favorite story you’ve got of Andrew back in the day?
A: (laughs) I remember my senior year, and I tore my meniscus during camp. Donovan Smith had some sort of wrist injury. This was maybe the third week of camp and Syracuse was creeping up on us. Garry Gilliam was playing one tackle, and Andrew was the next guy in. Here he is 18 years old, and he’s in this position where normally it’s like, ‘All right, well, I’m going to go out, work hard, show the coaches I want to work, but this year’s not my year.’ When you’re an offensive lineman and you’re a freshman, it’s not your typical mindset to start. I just remember him freaking out. I could tell he was trying to drink out of a firehose. I’d pull him aside and say, ‘You know, when you see the linebacker come up there you’re going to make this call, and that’s going to pull the guard out with you,’ and his head was spinning every time I tried to explain something to him. It was funny. But ultimately, I’m sure it was a great learning experience for him. Situationally, if he had to play, I’m sure he would’ve done well from what we were seeing.
Q: You mentioned Nelson was philanthropic; so were you, being heavily involved in Lift for Life and Uplifting Athletes. How important and how big a part of the Penn State experience was that for you?
A: It’s just great to see those guys give back to the community. We have such a big stage at the college level. ... To have those outlets to go and do great things for the community and see those things be published and that be the name the Penn State legacy is, especially — think about it, Penn State knows bad media better than anybody else after the past couple years. To have those good things going on, and it’s not just some fake, ‘Oh, a couple kids stopped by the hospital.’ No, Penn State football raises money and makes a difference. It goes a long way.
Q: After Penn State, you got your chance with the New York Giants. What was that experience like, and how cool is it to see some of your former teammates stick? Guys like Adrian Amos, John Urschel and Donovan Smith.
A: My experience individually was cool. It wasn’t long, but it was long enough to be on the roster and play in some NFL games. I can’t complain. In terms of seeing some of the guys I know, it’s a great thing. Seemingly not a guy like Urschel because he’s got a lot of things going on, but for most guys, that’s the ultimate goal. For anyone who walks onto a college field, they know that opportunity is something they could potentially grasp. To see guys succeed and go far with it is awesome. Just (Sunday) I was watching a game at Primanti’s and Adrian Amos, I just happened to notice him on the sidelines and a coach was talking to him. Those moments happen where I tap my fiancee and say, ‘Hey, there’s Adrian Amos!’ Every time that happens, it’s pretty cool.
Q: Last one for you, a question I ask a lot of people. Who was the toughest guy you went up against? Whether it was in college or your stint with the Giants.
A: (laughs) Joey Bosa from Ohio State was really good, and he was a freshman when I played against him. Granted, it only took him three years to get drafted in the league. But he was the real deal. He’s got a younger brother doing the same thing, and his old man was a football guy, too, so they’re one of those families. It’s just in their blood. It’s the family business. I remember him being outstanding. We actually game-planned for Noah Spence a whole bunch, and Bosa ended up being the most difficult lineman we played against.