Jesse James has now spent as much time with the Pittsburgh Steelers as he did with Penn State, so the fourth-year tight end is a bit of an expert when it comes to knowing what to expect in the NFL.
Lots of current Nittany Lions — and recent draft picks — like to use him as a resource, and that’s especially true for fellow tight end Mike Gesicki, the Miami Dolphins’ second-round draft pick.
“I was texting Mike on the off-day,” James said early last week. “I still keep in contact with him as much as possible. I try to see how he’s doing, with the adjustment of playing in the NFL and training camp. I always try to help him any way I can.”
That includes offering advice, both solicited and unsolicited. So what’s the best tip he’s given Gesicki so far?
“Not to get too high when things feel like they’re going well and not to get too low when things aren’t going great,” James said. “It’s a roller coaster. Not every day is going to be great, but you’ll bounce back.”
James speaks from first-hand experience. His first-ever preseason game saw him drop a ball near the goal-line, commit a holding penalty, fumble and get beat on punt coverage.
“I tend to keep myself pretty level but had some struggles in my first camp,” James added. “It was stressful. I was a later draft pick, so you’ve got to be more worried about your roster position and things like that, but you just learn from the process.
“It was probably as bad as it could have went, so I was just trying to bounce back from the rest of camp.”
By most accounts, Gesicki has fared well so far. He didn’t rack up any stats in his first preseason game, but he nearly hauled in one poorly thrown ball that flashed his athleticism and still excited fans:
James and Gesicki both played together with the Nittany Lions in 2014 under James Franklin, when James was a junior and Gesicki was a freshman. James broke the career school record for touchdowns by a tight end with 11 and then watched Gesicki break his record with 15.
Although he and Gesicki don’t have any friendly bets about who gets more catches this season — “I don’t really like to wager,” James said — the Steelers’ tight end said he’s still rooting for his former teammate.
“I hope he does as good as he can and catches as many passes as he can,” James said.