Mike Gesicki

Southern Regional's Mike Gesicki makes a catch over Toms River East's Matt Gudzak during the first half at Southern Regional High School Nov 10, 2012.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Mike Gesicki telephoned Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien on Thursday evening after Gesicki finished his Southern Regional High School football practice.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Gesicki is one of the state's top college prospects. Some recruiting services rank the receiver as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country.

"You have any good news for me?" O'Brien asked Gesicki.

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Gesicki told the coach he was going to attend Penn State.

O'Brien's reaction was anything but understated.

"He was yelling through the phone," Gesicki said. "He was saying, 'Oh, yeah.' It was a little loud in the ear. But it awesome. It was a great moment."

Gesicki announced his college choice in an email news release Thursday night. He addressed the media during a news conference at Southern Regional on Friday afternoon.

Gesicki chose Penn State over Ohio State. Those were two of the 22 Football Bowl Subdivision Schools that offered Gesicki a scholarship.

Before he called O'Brien, Gesicki telephoned Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to let him know he would not become a Buckeye.

"I have the utmost respect for Ohio State and Coach Meyer," Gesicki said. "I couldn't have made a bad choice. There wasn't a deciding factor that I could put my finger on. I was just following my gut."

Gesicki's father, also named Mike, said the family let Gesicki make his own decision. The father works as an airplane pilot, so Gesicki got to fly all over the country to visit colleges.

"We showed him everything," the elder Gesicki said. "He felt that (Penn State) in his heart that was the place for him, and we're ecstatic."

Under NCAA regulations, Penn State coaches cannot comment on Gesicki until he signs a national letter of intent on the first Wednesday in February. Gesicki's size and speed is what made him a top college prospect. He is too strong for defensive backs to cover and too fast for linebackers to keep up with. An outstanding athlete, Gesicki also excels at basketball and volleyball.

Gesicki attended Penn State's home game against Michigan last Saturday. The Nittany Lions won 43-40 in four overtimes. Gesicki said the drama of the game had nothing to with his decision. Rather it was the relationships he developed with the Penn State players during his visit that made him want to become a Nittany Lion.

"Me being around the guys is what we won me over," Gesicki said. "I felt so comfortable. I felt like I could call that place home. I felt like I could wake up there in March when we all we had was workouts, and I had an early-morning class and say I'm happy here."

Gesicki said the NCAA sanctions against Penn State - lack of scholarships and a bowl ban until 2016 - due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal also did not influence his decision.

"If you join Penn State now, you're on the part of the team that is taking the program back from all the negative things that were said and done," Gesicki said. "It's a great time to hop on the train and be a part of it."

Penn State is an offense on the rise. O'Brien was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, where he coached quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is one of the nation's top freshmen.

Gesicki said he decided for good between Ohio State and Penn State on Wednesday night when he tried on an Ohio State sweatshirt one last time.

"It just didn't feel right anymore," he said.

The recruiting process can be an overwhelming and whirlwind process for players. On Monday morning, Gesicki left his Manahawkin home to drive to school. He found the words "We are Penn State" written in soap on his truck. The Rutgers dance team, tweeted him this week trying to convince him to go to school there.

Gesicki admitted he felt some pressure this week, coming home after practice and going straight to his room.

But overall he enjoyed being recruited. He relished meeting coaches like O'Brien and Meyer. Gesicki also met Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on a visit to that school.

"I would wish this process on anybody," he said. "It's a great feeling to know that you're wanted by such great universities."

Many athletes give up their other sports when they have a scholarship. They are afraid of getting hurt. Gesicki said he will play basketball and volleyball for the Rams.

"I made a commitment to those teams as a freshman," he said.

Southern (2-2) plays at Lacey Township (5-0) at 1 p.m. today. The Rams need a win to boost their playoff hopes.

With his college decision made, a relieved Gesicki can now concentrate full time on being a high school athlete.

Gesicki said, with a smile, that will be the easy part.

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