When the prep football season begins its new late start in the spring, Manteno’s Josh Gesky will take the field as a Big Ten recruit after committing to play for coach Lovie Smith and the University of Illinois Sunday.
In a tweet, Gesky thanked the Illini, as well as all other schools who sought after the services of the consensus three-star offensive tackle, while also announcing his decision.
“I’d like to announce that I’ve decided to commit to The University of Illinois,” Gesky said in his tweet. “Thank you to all the coaches that have shown interest in me.
“The decision was difficult, but Illinois is able to give me the experience I want, all while staying close with my family.”
Gesky received 13 offers before deciding on the Illini. Kansas (Big XII) and Syracuse (Atlantic Coastal Conference) joined Illinois as the three schools from Power Five conferences that courted Gesky.
In an appearance with the Daily Journal Prep Podcast last month, Gesky said his offer from the Illini came while he was on a family vacation.
“I was down by the water and came back to my dad ... saying to call the coach on the landline [phone],” Gesky said. “I got on the phone and talked with the coach for about half an hour, and then they offered me.
“It was an amazing offer and really topped off the vacation.”
It wasn’t until the spring that Gesky’s recruiting picked up steam at the higher levels, as most NCAA Division I recruits already have top-notch offers during their junior seasons. But once Gesky started catching high-major attention, it never really stopped, increasing the confidence in the Panthers’ offensive line’s anchor.
“I started really feeling it when Kansas offered me; that was personally when I realized I could go to a big school,” Gesky said. “When Illinois offered me, it made me feel confident that I could play Division 1 football and keep up with everybody.”
And on Gesky’s recruiting journey, it was former Illini and NFL veteran Tony Pashos who has been an extra voice of encouragement, support and assistance, both with recruiting and his technique.
“Tony Pashos was talking with me and helping me with pass setting,” Gesky said. “He’s been a big help with recruiting and deciding on schools.”
In a statement to the Daily Journal, Manteno football coach R.J. Haines said he was excited for his offensive lineman who has what it takes to succeed at a school like Illinois both on the field and in the classroom.
“We are very proud and excited for Josh; he’s worked hard to give himself this opportunity and he deserves it,” Haines said. “Not just on the football field, Josh is an outstanding student and is going to get a top-notch education.
“[I] couldn’t be happier for him and look forward to his accomplishments at the University of Illinois.”
Gesky is a two-time all-conference selection, earning a nod in the Interstate Eight Conference in 2018 and the newly-formed Illinois Central Eight Conference last season, after a year in which Haines called Gesky the best offensive lineman he’s ever coached. That perfect 2019 campaign also netted Gesky his first selection on the Daily Journal All-Area team.