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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football returns to action Saturday, hosting Nebraska in its regular season home finale at Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media at his weekly press conference joined by linebacker Brandon Smith and tight end Mike Gesicki.
For Gesicki and Smith, Saturday marks the final time they'll take to the field at Beaver Stadium alongside members of the 2017 senior class. With the emotions associated with a final outing on the home field, both Gesicki and Smith were reflective Tuesday afternoon, looking back at their Penn State careers.
"This is going to be a game filled with a bunch of emotions," Gesicki said. "It is the last game ever playing in Beaver Stadium, and I can still remember the first time I was here in Beaver Stadium. My junior year of high school, I visited for the White Out game against Ohio State, and I remember the atmosphere, the fans, and everything about Beaver Stadium."
Across his four years, Gesicki noted he'll cherish everything, specifically mentioning how much the program has changed since he first stepped foot on campus.
I first got here coach Franklin had been here for about five months," Gesicki
"There's been some guys on these teams that played for a few coaches. Finally over the past two years, we've had complete buy in by all 125 players on the team. We all have the utmost respect for coach Franklin and trust him, the scheme, and what he preaches to us day in and day out."
For someone like Smith, it's this year that has been the most meaningful to him.
"This is my fifth season and I've just enjoyed all of it," Smith said. "I'd say patience has been one of the biggest things for me, just waiting for an opportunity, and preparation. Just having the right attitude. I talked to the team a couple weeks ago about my perspective switch of just being less selfish and more cheering my teammates on and being happy for the guys who got to play in front of me. Just being able to support them and that shift just lets you work harder, lets you have better focus, and so when your opportunity does come, you're ready."
On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on the unwavering commitment from this year's senior class.
"Those guys should be very proud," Franklin said. "I would hope that we sell out the stadium on Saturday for no other reason than to show these seniors how much we appreciate all their hard work and sacrifices that they've made."
"Juwan always says, 'Man, we've got a few more weeks and then I'm going to be out here throwing the ball to myself,'" Gesicki said. "I'm not sure who Juwan is going to let enter this prestigious club of ours but whoever it is, they're going to go out there and get in a bunch of extra work and prepare for Saturdays, just like we have been for the past two years."
- Smith on his transition to linebacker.
"I knew I could play linebacker, so I'd talk to coach Pry and I'd talk to coach Franklin. Once a week, every other week, I'd be up in one of their offices telling them I can do this. I'm not pulling your leg or anything like that. I was thankful to have guys like Ben Klein or Nyeem Wartman who were older guys who were there while I transitioned to linebacker, and they vouched for me. I appreciate them because ultimately they let me switch and I'm really thankful for that opportunity. Who knows, they probably might have cut me if I stayed a tight end. So just thankful for that opportunity."
- Gesicki on the latest member to join the "DaeSean Hamilton friends club."
"The latest addition would be Andre Robinson," Gesicki said. "Andre has, for the past year and a half, literally - because I live with Andre, been like, 'dude, I wish DaeSean would talk to me.' I'd tell him 'maybe go up and say what's up?' Then Andre actually went through my phone and got DaeSean's number when I wasn't looking. He texted him and DaeSean responded with, 'Who is this?' And Andre was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's Andre.' So then Andre would text him like a hundred times a day, really just annoy him to be his friend. Now he knows that Andre's a funny dude and likes hanging out with him. I would say Andre is the new addition."
- Smith on what this year has meant to him.
"I think this season in general, even though I've been a back-up for most of the season, I've just enjoyed this more than any other season and made an extra effort to build relationships with my teammates," Smith said. "I don't even know if I'll remember actually playing in games. I think just the team and the locker room and things like that. I think this year, more than any, has been the most meaningful to me."
- Gesicki on how much pride he takes in the fact that he didn't give up dealing with adversity early in his career.
"Ultimately I could have packed it in," Gesicki said. "That's not who I am. I'm a competitor. I had goals and aspirations. Then, going into that spring ball, I would write in my notebook every day. The first thing I'd write is I'm the best tight end. Every single day. If anybody ever read that, they would have laughed at me at that point in my life. Just because they would think you're not even close to that. I knew what I was capable of. That's something that I'm very proud of, how I grew and developed and become the player I am."