STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Mike Gesicki admitted the Penn State football coaching change shook him up.
"My head was all over the place," the Southern Regional High School senior said.
It took one visit from new coach James Franklin to put Gesicki's mind at ease. Franklin replaced Bill O'Brien, who resigned in early January to become the coach of the Houston Texans. O'Brien was famed for his passing offense. He was the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots before becoming Penn State's head coach.
"I saw the energy that (Franklin) brings," Gesicki said. "I wanted to see who I was signing my life to. He was at my house yelling and screaming. We were sitting there eating lunch. I knew right away that (Penn State) is where I wanted to stay. He's a great guy and a great football coach."
Gesicki signed a national letter of intent Wednesday morning to attend Penn State on a full scholarship. He was one of 17 area players to commit to NCAA Division I schools on Wednesday.
"It's been a long road," Gesicki said. "I've been blessed to be out in this situation. My family, my friends, my coaches and my teammates have been there to support my decision. Even after the coaching switch happened, everybody had my back."
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Gesicki is one of the nation's top tight end prospects. He is too strong for defensive backs to cover and too fast for linebackers to keep up with.
Gesicki verbally committed to Penn State in October. He chose the Nittany Lions over Ohio State. Those were two of the 22 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that offered him scholarships.
But after O'Brien left, media and fans began to wonder if Gesicki would change his mind.
Ohio State tight end coach Tim Hinton watched Gesicki play basketball for Southern on Thursday Jan. 16.
Two days later Franklin and a couple of Penn State assistants watched Gesicki and the Rams play St. Augustine Prep in basketball. Afterward, Franklin visited Gesicki's home in Manahawkin.
"I maybe considered (decommitting to Penn State) a little bit, but I've always known from the day that I verbally committed that Penn State was where I wanted to go," Gesicki said on Wednesday. "I wasn't just going there for football. I was going there for academics. I was going there for the people. I was going there because I felt comfortable there."
Franklin's visit removed any lingering doubts Gesicki had.
The two weren't strangers. Franklin was the coach of Vanderbilt and had recruited Gesicki for that school.
"He's more than just a football coach," Gesicki said of Franklin. "He wants to be a mentor to you. He wants to be a good role model for you."
Penn State is an offense on the rise. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was one of the nation's top freshmen last season.
"Coach Franklin told me he's going to use me the same way Coach O'Brien would have," Gesicki said. "He's not going to turn me into an extended tackle. (Franklin) is not classifying me as a wide receiver. He's not classifying me as a tight end. He's saying I can be a big playmaker in that offense and that's exactly what I want to do."
Gesicki already has solved one problem that faces all incoming college freshmen.
He plans to room with Saeed Blacknall, a wide receiver from Manalapan, who also signed a letter of Wednesday to play at Penn State.
Gesicki's family attended Wednesday's signing ceremony at Southern. Gesicki sat between his mother, Donna, and father, Mike.
"It's been stressful," Mike said. "He had to go where his heart and mind was set. We're very excited about Penn State. For us as a family, it means travel time. We can go to a lot of games now and support him even more."
Penn State will open next season in Dublin, Ireland, against Central Florida on Aug. 30.
Will the Gesicki family be going?
"We're already booked," Mike said.
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