- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Adam Gotsis had always played sports as a child. Typical sports, like rugby and Australian Rules Football.
Typical for a boy in Melbourne, Australia, anyway.
But when he was 14, he wanted a change of pace. He saw a flyer for American football and an upcoming junior competition. Gotsis and his older brother, Peter, decided to give it a go.
"We both started playing, and the sport kind of really suited my body type," Adam Gotsis recalled in a recent phone conversation. "I was a big, fast, tall, strong kid for 14, so I was able to go up against guys who were 17 and 18 and that increased my confidence. So did having my older brother there."
Pretty soon, Adam Gotsis was making a name for himself as a lineman, and one intrepid observer noticed. That led him to Georgia Tech last year. Now, less than a year after arriving in Atlanta, Gotsis has a shot to start at defensive tackle when the season begins.
Incredible that a random series of events has led Gotsis here.
Had he not tried American football; had he not caught the eye of Paul Manera; had he not taken a year off to keep his college football options open, he might very well still be a lifeguard back home.
That is what Gotsis was doing when the Yellow Jackets started recruiting him. Manera, who played for Paul Johnson at Hawaii, recommended Gotsis to the coaching staff after watching him play in the World Games. After Gotsis took his official visit, he committed on the spot.
"I just felt it was right straightaway," he said.
Gotsis worked hard at American football when he first started playing, though it worked completely differently in Australia. For one, he was on a club team that was not associated with his high school. They only practiced one or two times a week. They played a game on Saturday or Sunday. Ten games in a season. That was it.
He had to pay to play for the club, and he paid for all his equipment, too. Gotsis kept playing Australian Rules Football and basketball, but American football appealed to him most.
"I liked the tactics, how you could focus on one thing and feel really good about it," he said. "A lot of Aussie Rules, you have to be good at kicking, running, marking and things like that. In American football, if you can master your position, you can have a real impact on a game."
Gotsis started thinking about playing college football. He decided to take a year off after he graduated from high school to focus on training, getting in shape and squaring away his fundamentals. He took a job at a recreation center, where he was a lifeguard and customer service officer. He did not play football that year, either.
So when he arrived for fall camp last summer, Gotsis had not put on pads for a year. He also received his first taste at American football in America. Slightly different. One example -- he kept hearing the word redshirt. He had no idea what redshirt meant.
He just wanted to play. And he did, right from the start. He was nervous, because he had no idea what to expect. And the crowds. He had maybe 50 or 100 people watching him play in Australia.
When he stepped foot on the field in Blacksburg ...
"That was insane," he said.
As the season wore on, Gotsis got more and more comfortable. He did not get too homesick, considering his schedule was full from sun up to bed time every day. His mom and sisters were able to make it to the ACC title game. He went home for Christmas. And they have plans to come to another game this season.
Perhaps then, they will have a chance to see Gotsis play even more.
"Last year, I was a little intimidated," he said. "It was my first year playing college football. But now, I want to step up and be the guy in the middle to make the big plays when they need to be made, to make a big tackle or set the tone for the defense. Toughness is what it takes to play inside, and hopefully I can show that to my teammates, and they can show their trust in me to hold up my end in the middle."
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney