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Mike Gesicki | Tight End/H-Back | Sr./Sr.
Q. Wanted to ask you about Juwan and the progress he's made since he's been here? He's done a lot in between arriving and the catch on Saturday to get to this point. What are your thoughts on his growth?
MG: Juwan has put a ton of time into the on-field success that everybody's been seeing this season, especially on Saturday night, coming up with the huge touchdown catch to win the game for us.
He deserves all of the success that he's having, because of all the time that he's put into it. There were times in the summer where I would call Juwan, trying to get food or something at night, and he's in Holuba [Hal] running routes or something like that.
There were times toward the end of training camp where I would call Juwan at 10:00 p.m. and be like, ‘Hey, man, let's go catch.’ And we would go over to the building and catch. Juwan has been dialed in and completely focused on this season and has put a lot of time into it. It's no surprise that he's been able to have success.
Q. I know you talked about DaeSean Hamilton at Big Ten Media Days and how he's an underrated guy on this team but now that he's so close to taking over the career mark for receptions, what's your relationship like with him and how appreciative do you think he's going to be when that comes and how happy will you be for him?
MG: DaeSean is another guy that puts a ton of time into this and has for his entire career. Whether it was his freshman year before he even stepped on the field or this past season or (the offseason) going into his senior year. He's never wavered in his work ethic.
So for him to be so close to breaking this record; Penn State football has been around for a long time and he's about to have the record for most catches by any player in Penn State football history. For him to have that at his fingertips and be able to work for that and understand that that's been a goal of his -- but also he understands the team goals and where he fits in, as well.
So I think that DaeSean – one of my best friends on the team - I've kind of been there with him through his ups, his downs, his good games and all that cooped of stuff. Ultimately when that record does happen for him, there's not going to be a guy happier for him than me and there's not going to be a guy more appreciative of it than him.
Q. On Saturday we saw you guys in a two tight end set for a couple snaps. How much time do you spend working on that?
MG: We put a fair amount of time into that kind of stuff to make our offense more diverse and give [the tight ends] more opportunities. The one play that we ended up running on that fourth-and-1 play was something that we didn't even practice to be honest with you. He just kind of drew it up right there, literally drew it up on a piece of paper and said: You're going to go here and you're going to go here and this is what you're going to do. That's kind of what you can do when you're Coach Moorhead and you're a football genius.
He put that together for us and we were able to execute, but obviously having an additional tight end in the game, it gives us another guy in there to make some big blocks and to ultimately push us forward and get a first down. Hopefully it is something that will grow in the future in this offense because we have some guys in our room that are extremely talented.
Q. When people talk about being a matchup problem, what does that mean to you? Speed, size, route running? Who you are matched up against?
MG: I think it's all those kind of qualities that you just said. I think it has to do with being able to run, jump and use my size, use all of my abilities. It also has to do with me understanding my abilities and understanding who I'm going against. If I'm going against a bigger guy, then I have to use my speed against him. If I'm going against a smaller guy, I have to be able to jump up and make a play.
So being a mismatch, it's something that I've been called before, but ultimately in this offense, we have a ton of mismatches, honestly. We have a bunch of guys that can make plays and that can defeat man coverage or you've got 26 [Saquon Barkley] who can defeat all 11 guys, or at least I seems like that.
So you know, honestly, you could say it's me but there's a ton of guys on our team that could be mismatches for defenses.
Q. You said Coach Moorhead just drew up that play on fourth and one. How often does that sort of thing happen, and how much does it say about your team that you guys can adjust on the fly like that?
MG: The actual play that we ran was one of our basic plays. It's just running it out of a different formation that we haven't gotten to practice in that exact scenario.
Coach Moorhead is able to change some of our plays to run them out of different personnel groups and out of different formations. I think it shows that our offense is extremely talented. We have guys that we can place in different positions to be successful.
Ultimately, that's one of the reasons why we are able to be successful, because of the guys that we have that can be moved around and our ability to just put in [a play] right then and there and make execute.
Q. We were talking with Coach Franklin a lot about social issues and obviously some of your teammates have Tweeted and spoken out about those kinds of things. I believe you're part of the leadership council and Coach Franklin said you talked about it and obviously talked about it last year around election time. What's it like being in that position and hearing everybody's opinions and perspectives, and is it difficult when you're in a locker room with a 100-plus guys?
MG: I think it's important for our team to have those kind of discussions and be involved in what's going on around us.
Ultimately we have a ton of guys on our team that all have different opinions. You know, everybody should be given the opportunity to express themselves in the way that they want and talk about what they think is important and how they want to express themselves.
Being in the leadership council and hearing all these different opinions kind of shows the diversity of our team and shows how many different guys we have that have come from different backgrounds and have so many different beliefs and opinions.
So I think that it's important. I think it's something that we take pride in, not only as a team but as individuals on our team. Having those conversations have been good for us and if need be, we'll continue to have them.
Q. The focus is on Indiana this Saturday, but curious, when you think about last year's game and how defensively they had a lot of success piling up Saquon. What do you remember most about that game and trudging through those first three quarters before you broke it up and won?
MG: Indiana is an extremely talented football team. From what I know of the defense obviously.
Last year when we played them, they stacked the box and they understood that our best player was going to get the ball handed off to him 25 or 30 times in the game. So when you're doing that they are going to load the box and try to stop it. Ultimately we had guys last year, like Chris [Godwin], who came up and had two touchdowns in that game.
You know, we had a lot of opportunities to make plays down the field. So I think that being a tight end, being a receiver, you have to be excited for those kind of opportunities when a team is willing to load the box to try to stop the run game and they are going to play some man-to-man coverage or a little Cover 1 to give you an opportunity to just beat that man in front of you - the only man that you have to beat to get open.
So they have a lot of confidence in their abilities, which they should. They have been extremely successful with that. But ultimately being a competitor and being a receiver or tight end, it's something that you look forward to. Just knowing that the man in front of you is the difference between you making or not making the play, it's exciting.
Q. Do players care at all about the throwback aspect of this game, the uniforms or the different painting in the end zone? What are your thoughts on it?
MG: I mean, generations of greatness -- it's an exciting game, something we look forward to. Obviously you saw the excitement we had when we found out about it in June, and now that it's here, it's something we've been looking forward to.
We have been breaking in the white cleats in Sunday practices. It's an opportunity for us to honor the tradition of Penn State football because there has been so much rich history in Penn State Football.
So for this game to honor all of those different teams and all those different successful years that Penn State football has had, it's something that we are looking forward to and it's exciting for us.
Q. Any part of the uniform that sticks out to you?
MG: Speaking for a lot of the guys, we're pretty excited about the white cleats. Because obviously, you know, here at Penn State, we're wearing black cleats every single day, every single game. We understand that. We love it.
It's a great tradition. It's something that we appreciate and something that we want to continue to keep going. But to be able to switch it up for one game, it will be cool, a new look. I haven't worn white cleats since high school, so it will be fun.
Juwan Johnson | Wide Receiver | Jr./So.
Q. How have the past 48 hours or so been for you?
JJ: It's been kind of hectic to be honest with you. A lot of text messages. A lot of social media buzz. Just a lot of things going on. You have to keep your head on straight, obviously. My brother and my mother are always telling me to keep my head straight. Keep my head above water. That's pretty much the biggest thing in terms of something like this. You have to put things into perspective. I know things happened and I had a good game, but I also know I left a lot of plays out there. I could have done better, but we came out with the win. That's the main thing here.
Q. So obviously people have been talking about you for a while and capped off with a big play this weekend. How have you grown since the time you got here to now? How would you evaluate your progress?
JJ: Tremendous, honestly. First, start off with me spiritually, I've grown tremendously in my spiritual walk with God. That pretty much put me in the position where I am now and being able to dedicate myself in football and invested in myself and what I had to do with my body and my mind in terms of the physical aspect. I had to devote a lot of time in getting better and being an asset to the team.
Q. Mike talked about how the two tight end set on the fourth-and-1 got drawn up literally on the sideline. I remember you lining up and subbing after real quick. Was there any confusion?
JJ: There wasn't any confusion at all. It's kind of something that we already had in store. We just had a little tweak to it. We’d been running that play all game long and we sort of just added a little twist to it. So I had to cut, slip inside and make the catch. That's all I had to do.
Q. Do you see Joe Moorhead kind of regularly grab the clipboard and draw up stuff up during games?
JJ: Not really. We sort of go through a long list of things throughout the week. We put in things and take out things. That's pretty much how it goes. We just run the plays that he wants to run. That's pretty much it.
Q. Mike was in here and telling us that in the summer he would text you late at night to go get food and that you were usually over in Holuba Hall or something. Were you working out on your own?
JJ: I would usually be -- either with Tommy or Tommy and Saeed at 11:00 or 12:00 or sometime 1:00 in the morning. We would be there just working out because we knew we had a big season ahead of us and we knew we had a lot of expectations and a lot of dreams to fulfill and we wanted to beat teams. That's pretty much it.
Q. What does it mean when you have a guy Tommy, that who obviously has a guy in front of him, but putting in all the work that he's putting in behind the scenes?
JJ: Tommy is a great guy. I was friends with him before this, before he even got here. As our relationship grew, I tried to be on him to work harder and harder, because things are going to work out. That's pretty much it for that.
Q. What have you learned from DaeSean Hamilton since you've been here?
JJ: He's a worker. Even though I was a hard worker when I got here, he was an even harder worker and he pushed me to be a harder worker and a leader, and a better person.
He's a great friend. We always talk after practice when we're catching balls. He's definitely shown me a lot of things here. He showed me the ropes ever since I got here.
Q. Is there a level of excitement about the throwback aspect to this game? Is there anything about the uniforms you like in particular?
JJ: I like the uniforms. I like throwbacks like this. When I got here, I wanted to try a different uniform and see if Penn State could have a little twist to it. Tried to have my own ideas before I got here.
But I definitely like it, white cleats, white helmet, uniforms, everything. It's something new for me. I never had white cleats before, so it will be interesting.
Q. What were your ideas?
JJ: Just some things I saw on the Internet. Just something little, with a little stripe on the side [of the pants], something I found that I thought probably would never get by here. But I like it better so it doesn't really matter to be honest.
Q. How specifically have you grown spiritually? Where were you before and where are you now and how much does that impact your play?
JJ: My mother has always been on me about having a walk with God. She's never been pressing but just obviously giving me knowledge with Him. And then it's kind of just up to you if you want to be in a spiritual walk with Him. So for me, I just have daily devotionals or even reading a word at night. Stuff like that, just little things, one step at a time, just getting and growing closer with Him.
Q. Is there anything that changed, when you said, I wanted to start being more devoted?
JJ: I guess you could say when times started getting tough. I didn't like my role on the team, I guess you could to say. It was accepted but I didn't like it. Freshman year, getting red-shirted obviously was another part.
But I just wanted to be better for myself. He's done so much, so why not? Why not grow closer with Him and know Him even more.
Q. I was wondering what is behind your choice of number 84 when you got here as a freshman.
JJ: It wasn't really my choice to be honest with you. When I was a freshman in high school, I had 84. And it kind of just went over to here when I was 84. At the U.S. Army game, I was 84, as well, which also wasn't by choice. When I got here, 84 kind of just stuck. It's kind of me. It's kind of my identity and I’ve embraced 84.
Q. I believe you are part of the leadership council Coach was mentioning. What's it like for you guys to be in there and hear your teammates coming from a 100-plus different perspectives?
JJ: It's kind of their perspective. I respect any sort of belief that they have. I really don't mind in whatever they do. I don't particularly care about what my say is. I don't really have a care. So whatever my teammates have in mind, I'll listen, but I don't particularly have a view on it.
Q. One of the other things we were talking about, looking at Saquon since he's been here and the attention he's getting now. What do you remember about when you first met, what was he like then?
JJ: He's the same exact person. He's still the same Saquon that I knew when we were at The Opening. He hasn't changed a bit to be honest with you. I'm not saying this because I'm in front of a lot of people. He's the same person. Our relationship has grown. He's become a more mature person, and a better friend. So Saquon, he's awesome.
Q. Could you even imagine it would play out like this?
JJ: Honestly, it kind of just happened. I kind of envisioned it obviously. I mean, Saquon coming here, having a big year, big season, having great careers. I never really thought about it as in, we came here and oh, yeah, Saquon, Juwan. No, it's just fun that we're both having fun here and having a great time.