Before Mike Gesicki caught touchdown passes for the Southern Regional High School football team...

Before he wowed fans with acrobatic dunks for the Southern basketball team...

Before he leaped above the net for spikes and kills for Southern's state championship boys volleyball team...

... Gesicki played a position few fans noticed.

As a freshman, he held the ball on extra points for the football team.

"One of the most accurate statements I've heard is that high school goes by in the blink of an eye," Gesicki said. "I can still remember walking into high school my freshman year not even knowing where my classroom was going to be."

From that modest beginning, Gesicki became one of the best athletes in school history.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end/wide receiver will attend Penn State on a football scholarship.

He leaves for Happy Valley on Friday.

Gesicki, 18, graduates high school as Southern's career scoring leader in basketball, its career leader in blocks in volleyball and its career leader in football receiving yards.

He led the Rams' volleyball team to its second straight state title this spring.

Gesicki is The Press 2013-14 Male High School Athlete of the Year. He literally soared above his competition.

His leaping ability set him apart in every sport and made him one of the most exciting high school players to watch in New Jersey.

"I was able to break records in every single season I played in," Gesicki said. "That shows my hard work and dedication. It also shows the great teammates I played with and the great coaching I had. I had a lot of success with all three programs and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Gesicki lives in Manahawkin with his parents, Mike and Donna. He is the youngest of three children.

His older sisters - Ashley, 24, and Kelsey, 21 - both played volleyball for Southern.

In a telephone conversation last week, Gesicki talked about a number of topics, including which is better - catching a touchdown pass, dunking a basketball or spiking a volleyball.

On how he started playing sports: I've always been around sports. I'm the youngest kid in my family. I have older sisters, and they played basketball. I used to follow my dad into practice, grab a ball and just kind of run around the gym. I just loved the whole experience of sports. I can't imagine my life without it.

On his attitude toward sports when he first arrived at Southern: I was all about basketball. I was basketball seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day. I was thinking about quitting football. I didn't know I was going to play volleyball. A lot of things were up in the air. I eventually stuck it out with football - thank God I did. And then I made the decision to play volleyball. That's the best decision I made in my high school career. I played for a great program, played for a great coach (Eric Maxwell) and won two state titles along the way.

On when he realized he had tremendous leaping ability: Probably my eighth-grade year when I got my first dunk in a middle school basketball game. I got a steal. I barely got it over the rim. I pulled down the rim a little bit. It was the first of many dunks, and that's when I realized I could get up in the air.

On dealing with the grind of playing three sports: I'm a huge competitor. I live for big moments. I live for the long season. I love staying after practice to work out until 7 p.m. It's something I've always done. It's all about mental toughness and telling yourself, 'I'm not tired.' You have to keep moving ahead and working harder than the next guy. Those are the things I've always told myself.

On which is better - a touchdown catch, a dunk or a kill in volleyball: From September to late November, I love to catch touchdowns. From December to March, I'm dunking the ball. From March until early June, there's nothing better than getting a spike on the court. I really don't have a favorite sport. It's only what's in that season. I can't put my finger on one thing that's been better than the next because it's all been so great.

On his future at Penn State: There's nothing that I'm more excited for than playing a Division I sport before thousands of fans on national television. But before you do all that stuff, you have to put the work in. I can't wait to start working out with the team, start throwing and catching with the quarterbacks and get acclimated into the team. It doesn't get much bigger than Penn State football - 107,000 fans screaming and yelling in the stadium. I know how hard I'm going to have to work to make these dreams I've always talked about come true.

On what he does to relax: When I'm done practice, I'll go into the weight room and work out. I'll come home, shower and hopefully have some dinner cooked up for me. I have some good friends of mine that I'm always hanging out with that I also played sports with. When I'm not on the court, the field or the weight room, I'm just an average kid, enjoying myself.

Contact Michael McGarry:


@ACPressMcGarry on Twitter

Previous winners of The Press Male High School Athlete of the Year

1988: Urie Ridgeway (Bridgeton) track and field

1989: Urie Ridgeway (Bridgeton) track and field

1990: Pat Lynch (Ocean City) wrestling

1991: Garrett Gardi (Lacey Township) football, basketball

1992 and 1993: no award given

1994: LaMarr Greer (Middle Township) basketball

1995: Royce Reed (Bridgeton) track and field

1996: Ricky Mosley (Bridgeton) football, basketball, baseball

1997: Ron Dorsey (Hammonton) football, baseball

1998: Muhammad Abdullah (Southern Regional) football, track and field

1999: Rafael Craig (Millville) track and field

2000: Joe Weiss (Mainland Regional) football, wrestling, track and field

2001: Jon Stinson (Holy Spirit) swimming

2002: Tim Bowser (Millville) football, basketball, track and field

2003: Rick Amos (Hammonton) football, wrestling

2004: Ryan Goodman (Absegami) football, wrestling

2005: Davon Edwards (Middle Township) football, track and field

2006: Jack Corcoran (St. Joseph) football, wrestling

2007: Matt Szczur (Lower Cape May Regional) football, indoor track and field, baseball

2008: Anthony Barone (Hammonton) football, basketball, baseball

2009: Mike Trout (Millville) baseball

2010: Tejay Johnson (Egg Harbor Township) football, basketball, track and field

2011: Isaiah Morton (St. Augustine Prep) basketball

2012: Mark McCoy (Barnegat) football, baseball

2013: Dayshawn Reynolds (Atlantic City) football, basketball

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