Adam Gotsis arrived at Georgia Tech in July 2012 as almost an unknown to strength and conditioning coach John Sisk. Less than four years later, he’ll leave Tech as Sisk’s standard.
Sisk will gauge future Yellow Jackets who devote themselves in the weight room against the defensive tackle from Abbotsford, Australia.
“’Is he Adam Gotsis?’ will be a measure for us,” Sisk said.
It’s not All-America or first-team All-ACC – honors Gotsis might have earned had he not torn his ACL in the ninth game of the season. But it better explains why Gotsis has transformed from a green freshman into a prospect who could be selected Friday night in the second or third round of the NFL draft.
“If he gets a chance (in the NFL), he’ll be there just because it’s going to be hard to cut him,” Tech defensive line coach Mike Pelton said. “Because he’s going to work his butt off.”
That sort of dedication was required given where Gotsis started out. He came to Tech after one of coach Paul Johnson’s former players connected the Yellow Jackets with Gotsis, who played for a club team in Melbourne. His defense ran two plays on defense, he told media at the NFL draft combine, nothing like the complexities of college football.
“Everything was new to him,” Pelton said. “Playing double teams. Pass protection. Pass moves. Slant steps. All that stuff was just new to him.”
Still, Gotsis played 12 games as a first-year freshman in 2012 and became a full-time starter as a sophomore. He caught up to his American peers with agility that he developed playing Australian rules football, his size and his willingness to push himself in the weight room and practice field.
“I just knew I had to come and outwork everyone,” he said. “Not only on our team but across the country. That’s kind of where I got that work ethic from, is just that self-motivation. I know that there’s someone else out there working just as hard as me.”
His power clean – the lift from the floor up to the shoulders while standing – grew from about 225 pounds to 350 last summer. His ability to beat blocks, push back pockets and stop the run likewise developed. He earned second-team All-ACC in 2014 and likely would have earned similar recognition had he not suffered the season-ending injury against Virginia on the first play of the game.
Gotsis’ impact on the team both in terms of play and leadership was felt strongly that afternoon in Charlottesville, Va.
“You look at our sideline, there was no energy,” Sisk said. “We’re all worried about the guy who’s our captain. It was like letting the air out of a balloon.”
Gotsis was disappointed to not be able to finish out the season, particularly because he couldn’t help extend Tech’s 18-year bowl streak, but soon dedicated himself to rehabilitating and getting ready for the NFL draft. He is about six months into his rehabilitation. He began light running a couple weeks ago. Tech’s sports medicine staff, which has overseen his recovery, will hand Gotsis over to whatever team drafts him. It’s almost the exact same process that former Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter followed when he tore his ACL in the Georgia game in 2014 before getting drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. Gotsis is trying not to think about whether he can play this season.
“I think when I get to 100 percent, then it’ll be a decision like, Yeah, I can play this year, but at the moment, I’ve just got to get back to 100 percent,” he said.
Based on conversations with NFL general managers, Pat Dye, Gotsis’ Atlanta-based agent, said that Gotsis likely will go somewhere between the end of the second round and the fourth round. Dye suspects that, if not for the ACL, Gotsis would not have gotten out of the second round.
“They love the character,” Dye said. “They feel like, because he didn’t grow up playing American rules football, he’s still got a lot of potential for growth and development.”
Gotsis spoke at length with several teams at the NFL draft combine, including Carolina, Denver, Miami, Minnesota and New Orleans. He took visits to Arizona and Philadelphia.
“(The round) doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m just ready to get taken and end up in a camp somewhere and go to work.”
In the last couple weeks, it has begun to dawn on Gotsis that his time at Tech has wound down to the end. The coaches and trainers who have guided and pushed him and the teammates he has played alongside will recede into his past.
“It’s going to suck, because it’s like leaving your family, but eventually, everyone has to leave,” said Gotsis, already versed in leaving family behind. “You can’t stay here forever. I’m just looking forward to this next journey.”