Sept. 13, 2012
by Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –
On the subject of freshman defensive lineman Adam Gotsis – or “The Thunder from Down Under,” as some Georgia Tech coaches refer to the Australian newcomer – the first impression as he approaches is that he doesn’t look to be 6-feet-5 and 300 pounds.
With most lads that size, you might expect him to have more of a flabby physique.
Gotsis does not, and by the time he’s up close you realize that in the absence of said excess baggage he has a very large frame. His hands look like those you might imagine attached to a grown man who spent 40 years working in a mill. They’re out-sized. His shoulders are wide. Gotsis is one thick, “bloke,” to use a word he did.
Moving next to the prospect of his talent, the fact that he played last Saturday against Presbyterian and that he’s not going to redshirt . . . that says a bit.
Football is not a highly-developed sport in Australia, Gotsis missed all of the summer workouts at Tech because he did not arrive in the U.S. until July 31, and yet . . . he’s already in the mix, if on the fringes for now.
“The thing we like about Adam is, as you’ve seen, he’s a big kid . . . but can run,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “He’s got a chance to be a good player.”
Gotsis, who landed at Tech largely on connections built before he was born when one of his coaches back home, a Paul Manera, played at Hawai`i while Johnson and Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak worked there, says more than you imagine as well.
This is not to say he’s chatty, but while he admits to having battled nervousness chiefly when he arrived in the U.S., he’s grown comfortable relatively quickly.
There aren’t many differences in cuisine here, and he said, “The students are pretty much the same. It just feels like I’m in another state back home, and not on the other side of the world. It’s all pretty much the same. Food is food.”
The football, on the other hand, is a good bit different. Here, it’s quicker, more nuanced and populated by more talented players.
“I was just kind of thrown into this big world. I was nervous at the start. After those first two days, and I got to know all the players right away and that really helped,” he said. “When I first came, I was pretty nervous because I missed the whole summer. I didn’t know what level the freshmen would be at.
“They were a lot better than what I expected, but they just came out of high school and I’ve been out of high school for a bit.”
That may have helped. After graduating from high school in his hometown of Abbotsford, Victoria, Gotsis went into the work force. When he wasn’t laboring as a lifeguard, or a receptionist, or working in the gym in a local recreation center, he was working out – a lot, like four times a week and then some. He’ll turn 20 on Sept. 23 so in a way he’s already done a redshirt year.
He, Manera and others were soliciting college programs in the U.S. At the same time as the muscles grew and his quickness increased. Although there had been some contact with Hawai`i, Boise State, Baylor and some other schools, Gotsis visited just one program – Tech.
His late January trip to The Flats made him feel so good that he just about immediately accepted a scholarship offer.
“When I came on my visit, it just felt natural,” he said. “Just knowing that coach Johnson trusted coach Manera’s opinion really made me trust coach Johnson. My parents really liked it.”
Nothing’s changed that, although getting back to classes has been every bit the chore one might imagine.
Gotsis is majoring in Business Administration, where he said, “I was out for 16 months so it was kind of a jump to get back into the routine of going to classes, and taking notes.”
He may have found his comfort zone in football more quickly. Gotsis first played when he was 13, and said he began to take the sport more seriously a few years later, or when, “I started realizing that I was decent at this.”
With backgrounds in basketball and Australian rules football, there’s a bit more agility to be found in Gotsis than is standard, and his skill set is wider than some of his fellow D-linemen. In an interview back home, before he left for the U.S., Gotsis suggested that he might try out for deep snapper and punter at Tech, but for now he’s on the D-line.
“Just getting back into pads was a big deal,” he said. “After the first week was out of the way, I started to feel comfortable again, and it was just about proving myself to the guys on the D-line. After the first few sessions, I think that they saw that I was picking it up a bit more and that kind of boosted my confidence.
“I look up to a few of the older boys, like Izaan [Cross] and T.J. [Barnes], the seniors. They’re great blokes and really good players on the field so I just try to listen to little things that they say.”
If you’re like me, you understand how to use the word bloke but if you were asked to define it . . . eh. So what is a, “bloke?”
Gotsis answers: “Just, pretty much a good mate.”
Well, of course. With that the young man who some teammates call, “Crocky” in honor of Crocodile Dundee, grinned big time.
He’s fitting in with the help of technology. He said he communicates by text message or on Skype just about every day with his mother, and he hopes to go home for several days over Christmas break.
Next fall, perhaps Gotsis will have more familiar faces around. He said, “I think Mum will probably come over . . . and stay during the season for a bit with my sisters.”
That brought another smile.
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