Adam Gotsis is a four-year NFL defensive end, a former second-round pick, a starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars…and still picking up new parts of the game every day.
“The learning curve is huge,” Gotsis recently told JaguarReport.
“I feel like I'm still learning so much about the game.”
His hunger to make that leap is only outmatched by his raw talent, both aspects Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone is hoping to tap into as they continue to develop the former Denver Bronco who arrived in Jacksonville this August after signing with the Jags in the offseason.
“I like a lot of things that [Adam’s] done,” says Marrone of the former Georgia Tech star.
“He’s really helped us in the run game. He’s done a good job in the position that we have him in. I think he’s excelled in that position before and I think we’re going to push him to see if we can get a little bit more pass rush out of him.
“I think that we know that he’s really done a good job in the run game and [we’re] really trying to work on this first and second down pass rush and get even better production out of him because he’s a guy that consistently works hard, consistently tries to better his game, great team guy, wants to be better.”
While on some level, every player and coach is still learning so much about the game—the prerequisite for success so as not to get left behind as the game evolves—Adam Gotsis is the first to admit he is still playing some catch-up. And it makes sense Gotsis would have a steeper learning curve than most.
Gotsis was born and raised around Melbourne…no not the Florida Space Coast Melbourne.
He grew up playing basketball, cricket and a variety of other sports. But American football—or Gridiron as it’s called down under—captured his attention. There was only one problem.
“American football wasn't very big in Australia,” he explains.
With only a handful of teams in the area—the kind of scrapped together teams that featured players as coaches—Gotsis began looking for someone who could connect him to this game that seemed suited for the hulking athletic teenager he had already become. And if there’s one person in Australia that knows what it takes to make Gridiron dreams come true, it’s Paul Manera.
An Australian native himself, Manera began playing American football at 17-years old. Three years later, he attended a clinic in Sydney. There he met Paul Johnson, who was offensive coordinator at the University of Hawaii at the time. Johnson was intrigued by Manera but, much like Gotsis three decades later, he needed some polish.
Johnson helped connect Manera to Itawamba Community College in 1987. A couple of years later, Johnson offered Manera a scholarship to finish his college playing career at Hawaii. After that, Manera knew what he had to do.
“My journey through playing Club Football in Australia and being able to succeed at the college level in the USA really motivated me to return to Australia and give back to the game,” Manera recounts for Jaguar Report.
“I feel as though I owe it to the game to help people because I was very fortunate as a young man to have help from other people in the football community to get me where I am and like to see other people succeed.”
With that as his mission, Manera began helping other Aussies set up their future on the gridiron. Which is how Adam Gotsis found him. After connecting on Facebook, Manera invited Gotsis up to Sydney to watch him run some drills and test his movement. He saw enough to extend him an invitation to the Down Under Bowl—a high school All-Star Tournament in Australia against visiting high school players from the States.
“When I first met Adam it was in 2009,” recalls Manera.
“He was approximately 15 years old and weighed around 240 pounds. I could see that he had good size and a big frame and he had potential. After Adam played in the Down Under Bowl I felt that he had the potential to play college football. I then invited Adam to try out for the World Under 19’s Team in 2011 where he participated in the world development team training camp and he just missed out on making the team that played against the USA (at that time I was the offensive coordinator for the IFAF under 19's World Team.
“It was at that stage that I knew that Adam had the ability to play college football and excel at the sport. He was so raw at the time but his natural size—approximately 6'5 and 290 pounds— and athleticism and heart and determination and intensity was very noticeable and I could tell that he was driven.”
So as raw as he was and as much as he had to learn, Manera helped Gotsis make in-roads for a future the coach knew the kid could achieve. And that meant reaching out to the man who’d help make Manera’s own dreams come true.
Paul Johnson, by that time head coach at Georgia Tech, wanted to know more about this kid of Manera’s that was wrecking the game while still learning so much about the game itself.
“The tough thing was, you know, I didn't have any real like game footage,” says Gotsis.
“I had some stuff that my mom had been filming for me in Australia, just some backyard games, but a lot of it was they just wanted to see how athletic I was and me lifting. So I sent a bunch of like workout clips and stuff like that to these colleges.”
But Johnson and Georgia Tech wanted to see him in person.
“And basically, they just offered me on the spot there.”
D1 offers are not given out like candy. They are hard to come by, must be earned and just as importantly, must be deservedly kept. His years playing the game in Australia, especially at multiple positions, helped but Gotsis was also a senior in high school, measuring in at 6’4”, 290 lb. and the Yellow Jackets were short on defensive tackles.
Let’s try you there, they proposed, and see what happens.
What happened is Gotsis received a crash course in American football with a little baptism by fire.
“In terms of technique and things like that, you know, when I got to Georgia Tech, [was] still pretty raw. And fortunate enough to have some good coaches there; [linebackers coach] Andy McCollum and Coach Mike Pelton as my D line coach through the years there, and you know, they really taught me the game of football and how to see the game differently, instead of just, you know, running around trying to tackle.
“The actual game inside the game, I was able to start like learning and then once you pick that up, you know, a lot of it's on you to continue that, putting in that work in developing as a player. And I was fortunate enough to be able to do that and get an opportunity to take it to the next level. And then go to the next level of learning doesn't stop.”
Manera says it was while watching Gotsis play significantly as a freshman, even starting one game, that made him realize his former player had a chance to make it to the NFL.
“Playing Division 1 college football is no easy task and for Adam to be a contributor as a true freshman was a good sign that he would be getting noticed by NFL Scouts,” says the coach.
And the lessons learned through four years in Atlanta helped the defensive end make that jump. Drafted by the Bronco’s in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Gotsis stepped into a perfect situation to continue climbing that learning curve.
With a roster that boasted guys like DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams…and oh yeah, Von Miller, Gotsis soaked up everything they could teach him.
"When I was in Denver, I was fortunate enough to join them after they just won the Super Bowl. So, you know, they had a lot of elite players on there, a lot of players with a lot of experience. And you know they’d just won a Super Bowl. And you know, the knowledge was basically unlimited that you can get from guys on that team. And I definitely learned a lot about the game.
“Just to be able to be on the field with these guys, understanding how they see the game and stuff. It can give you a lot of tips and points and help you out a lot. So teammates and coaches throughout the journey have impacted me in the way I play the game in some way.
“And that's what I mean by the learning never ends, you know, you're constantly surrounded by players who have made it to this level. So you know, they're doing something right. So you know, you can always learn from that and learn from your peers, you know, the coaches around you. And coaches here in Jacksonville. So I'm excited about what I’m getting to see here and excited to keep doing it on the field.”
What he’s done on the field thus far is start six of the Jaguar seven games, notch 14 tackles and a pass defended, on pace to match his best season yet, 2017 in Denver, while becoming a run stopper for the Jags.
“Adam is a great story, he’s a great person. But what he’s brought is a level of toughness for us,” observes Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash.
“I think he does a really good job in what we’re asking him to do; playing the run on first and second down, he’s stout at the point of attack, and I think he does a nice job of leading those guys with the work ethic that he brings in every day. So, it’s a heck of a story and I think he’s got a lot of football ahead of him.”
For every bit of football ahead of him is another lesson learned. Those come in all areas though. Adam Gotsis is still learning about football and life…and even fatherhood. With an eight-month-old at home, his family is welcoming in another little baby boy in March 2021. That’s a whole other crash course in life.
“Definitely changing and changing quick,” laughs Gotsis.
After tearing his ACL at the end of last season, the time off became a blessing in disguise as he was able to spend time at home with the newborn, in the midst of a move across the country. And when time allows during the offseason, he heads home.
“I normally go straight to my grandma's she lives across the street from me so I normally get home or go straight to my grandma's and hang out there for a couple of hours. Catch up with her and then from there normally showing up to the beach with my sisters and my brother and stuff and a couple of my friends and we'll go up to the beach and spend a weekend up there, a couple days just up at the beach and hang out there for a bit.”
That’s what’s nice about living in Jacksonville now says Gotsis. Being near the beach again feels like home. And back home is where this journey began, the place that originally taught him the work ethic and toughness that Todd Wash sees benefitting the team now. Now step by step, lesson by lesson, it continues here for Adam Gotsis and the Jacksonville Jaguars.