Wrapping up the Nittany Lions' winter workout period, Penn State strength and conditioning coordinator Dwight Galt spoke of the strides senior tight end Mike Gesicki has made.
As he’d done the year before, Mike Gesicki was committed to making offseason improvements this winter.
Announcing his return for a fourth and final season of eligibility with the Nittany Lions before the Rose Bowl, the rising senior tight end made those intentions clear.
“Once the offseason comes,” he told the media, “I have a whole new list of things to improve on just like I did last off-season and continue to improve and move on.”
Certainly, it’d worked before.
Finishing second on the team in receptions to soon-to-be NFL wideout Chris Godwin (59) with 48 of his own for 679 yards and five touchdowns, Gesicki exceeded his catch, yardage and touchdown totals from the previous two years combined. Propelled further by touchdowns in both the Big Ten Championship win for the Nittany Lions over Wisconsin and again against Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, Gesicki found two specific areas from which to narrow his offseason focus.
“One thing would be, which I think I've done all season long, which I think I've improved on all season long, would be run after the catch,” Gesicki said. “I think it's gotten a lot better. I used to be kind of catch ball, tackle, whatever it was. Now I've shown I can be physical. I can get some yards after the catch. I can break a tackle here and there, things like that. I'm going to focus on yards after the catch.”
And second, Gesicki also said he wanted to improve an element that had already made great strides in his junior campaign, but still needed further improvement.
“And then, obviously, continue to improve in blocking,” he said. “Rather than just being satisfied with stalemating, I want to get some more movement. That's obviously going to also come from the weight room and getting bigger, stronger, all that kind of stuff.”
For a team that has been largely quiet in its media availabilities through the winter training period, Friday afternoon offered an opportunity for Gesicki’s claims to be backed.
Unprompted, strength and conditioning coordinator Dwight Galt did exactly that, reveling in the dedication Gesicki has shown to the craft in the weight room through the winter months.
“One guy that my son and I have been spending a lot of time with is Mike Gesicki. Mike is an awesome kid. Great kid, hard worker, dedicated, smart. He does a ton of extra stuff,” said Galt. “Mike's a guy that's very fast as we know, we saw that on Saturdays, but in-season there's just so much going on he really struggles to maintain all the gains that he gets in the offseason.”
As Galt went on to say, Gesicki’s prior improvements during the offseason before his junior season were significant, but the rigors of the 2016 campaign proved to be too much to completely maintain them.
Listed at 252 pounds during the season, the tight end’s weight trended downward, Galt said.
“So last year, he had a real good year but he was just kind of fighting at the end to keep it together physically, keep his weight up, keep his speed up and really working hard and kind of figuring out the recovery regeneration process,: said Galt.
Determined to reverse that course in the season ahead, Galt and the rest of the training staff went to work to make sure Gesicki’s offseason improvements this winter would not be for naught.
“We all know how good he is, I want to make sure that this next year he comes in August and he lasts all the way through January and is in tip-top shape for even the last gam. So Mike has done a tremendous job,” said Galt. “He weights 258 right now, he ran great, great pro shuttle, jumped 39-inches in the vertical, benched 420, cleaned 380. It's really a testament to how hard he's worked. But he really gets it.”
Months before the start of his last go-round with the Nittany Lions, an undoubted preview of his potential for NFL scouts and personnel who will evaluate his potential at the next level through the course of the season, Gesicki has taken to the lifestyle.
Whether constantly spending time in the pool, stretching, eating well or getting good sleep - even when games are still five months away - Gesicki’s work ethic could be setting up for a knockout senior season.
“He's a guy that's taken that pro mentality as far as the approach that we're trying to get with nutrition, sleep, recovery, all those different areas. So he's been a guy, he's an older guy and you wouldn't expect it, but I'm really excited to see him next year,” said Galt. “As good as he was this past year I think he'll be much better.”