April 2, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Adam Gotsis knows better than anyone that it’s not where you start but where you finish.
Gotsis, a senior, who is participating in his final spring practice, is determined to make his finish better than his start.
“I remember my first FULL practice. That wasn’t a good one,” he recalled, with a laugh, of that day back in the summer of 2012, which also was his first day with the Yellow Jackets football team upon arrival from his native Australia. “I remember I tripped over some bags. We were doing bags and I was like, `I can’t let this happen ever again.’ Then I played a little that season, so I got pretty comfortable with a lot of the team.”
Since that drill, it’s been a really good trip for the 6-5, 282-pound native of Abbotsford, Australia, as he has made life pretty uncomfortable for opposing teams, especially their running backs and quarterbacks. Last season, he finished with 36 tackles (23 solo), eighth on the Jackets and second amongst defensive linemen, while his 6.5 tackles for loss, accounting for minus-30 yards) and 3.0 sacks (good for 23 yards in losses) both ranked third on the team. He also made his second career interception and even got involved with special teams, blocking his first PAT and field goal.
The memories of last season are still sweet for Gotsis, who was named second-team All-ACC by the media and coaches, but they have been put in storage.
“We can look back on that and be like, `We had a great year in 2014′ but this year is a completely different year and it’s a new bunch of guys,” he said. “That team last year went to the Orange Bowl. This team this year hasn’t done anything yet. We’re 0-0 and we’ve got to take it into next season with that mentality. We have to play like we’re the underdog again.”
Gotsis, who comes into 2015 leading the team with the most starts and consecutive starts (26), knows about being the underdog. He played that role coming out of high school and getting to a Division I school in the Unites States. He then bided his time, learning his role, then earning a starting spot as a sophomore, then garnering all-conference honors as a junior. As a senior, he is now being counted upon to be a leader on the defense.
It’s been a dizzying ride. One that seemed improbable.
“It’s been a journey,” he said, with a laugh. “I remember the whole recruiting process and just trying to get, really, any college to find some interest in me. Georgia Tech really helped me through the [eligibility] process because in Australia there isn’t really anyone to help you through that. They made sure everything was getting done. Then, once I was finally cleared, I think it was like a week before signing day, I finally got everything done and then I was able to sign with Georgia Tech and come on my visit here and fell in love with the place. Since then it’s kind of been a roller coaster, and I’m enjoying it, loving every minute of it.”
The Jackets are counting on Gotsis’ ride being a little smoother than a roller coaster and mentoring some of the team’s younger players as he improves his game.
“He needs to continue to raise his level of play. I thought he played well last year for the most part. He needs to be a leader for us,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “He just has to get better. He can get stronger, get a little bigger, faster, stronger. He’s got another year under his belt and just be consistent. Be really consistent.”
Gotsis has worked to improve every facet of his game and recognizes the leadership responsibility he bears.
“I definitely feel that,” he said. “We’ve got young guys like Antonio Simmons, Kenderius Whitehead, Tyler Merriweather, and all them boys. I feel like I need to be a leader for them. Like if coaches help one of them, I can be talking to them on the side and be that senior D-lineman. I’ve got Pat Gamble there as well, [Rod] Rook-Chungong, a good bunch of us that are all veteran guys now, who have played and we can help those younger guys get better. Because once we’re gone, they’re the next ones up. So it’s all about what you can leave behind and the impression you can leave on these younger guys.”
One of those younger guys Gotsis is looking forward to playing with again is honorable mention All-ACC sophomore end KeShun Freeman. He sees so much promise for 2015 following the year they had playing next to each other in 2014.
“Definitely I’ve built some trust with him through last year,” he said. “Seeing what he did last year, he just has to better himself and keep working on the little things and the little details, which he is. Hopefully he can come out and have another great year like he did and we’ll be another good defense.”
Gotsis will be instrumental to Tech’s having that good defense. In turn, that might lead to more and louder whispers about his moving up and ultimately playing on Sundays in the future.
“I think he’s got a chance if he continues to get better,” Johnson said. “Truthfully, he’s probably played even better than I thought he would, but I thought he would be a player that would help us, contribute. He’s going to end up being a three-year starter. That’s pretty good.”
The next level would be even better, but, to Gotsis, the key word is “next,” as in next year. For now, there are bigger, more pressing issues to address.
“I’m really just trying to focus on this season,” he said. “I’m just taking it day-by-day, do what I can now. I can’t control what’s going to happen in the future so really just controlling what I can do now, going out there and working every day and just trying to get better. When that time comes, hopefully it does come, I think I can further my football career.”
That’s a door, once locked, that he’s helped open both on the collegiate and pro levels to athletes back home in Australia, like NRL (National Rugby League) star Jarryd Hayne, who was signed during the off-season by the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“I see a lot of guys starting to get a bit of interest, whether it’s Division I, Division II, a lot of kickers and things like that. This is great for the sport,” he said. “I think the 49ers just signed Jarryd Hayne, an NRL guy, so that’s huge for football in Australia. A lot of guys back home that never thought they had the opportunity to come to the States and even play a sport, let alone, football. So that’s going to be huge because we have a lot of talent. You see guys in the NBA, Australians in the NBA playing. I think that’s going to open a few channels for Australian guys going to university and they might want to come over here and give it a shot.”
Get The Good Word in your email box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.