Adam Gotsis was sitting in the car, outside the Monash Warriors gridiron training facility in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne.
He sat there waiting, a wide-eyed, 15-year-old school boy, mesmerised by a group of players walking past and thought: “am I in the right place? I’m not going down there. These guys are men!”
Gotsis was with his brother at the time and recalls, “he’s about three years older than me, and he was like, ‘Look, I’ll go down there with you.’ And the rest is history.”
Gotsis, the 195cm, 130kg (287 lbs) from Abbotsford in Melbourne, Australia, was drafted to to the Denver Broncos in the 2016 NFL Draft, selected in the second round at pick 63. An astounding effort.
The 23-year-old was projected to be a late third or fourth round pick by many scouting experts who graded him a 5.5 out of 10.
Gotsis portrays rare characteristics that cannot be taught in the film room. He has a great attitude, a strong work ethic, plus, he’s passionate and grateful. Gotsis’ Georgia Tech defensive line coach Mike Pelton said, “if he gets a chance in the NFL, he’ll be there just because it’s going to be hard to cut him, because he’s going to work his butt off.”
John Elway, the two-time Super Bowl champion, Hall of Famer and now President of the Denver Broncos said, “he was a guy we had targeted, so we didn’t want to take any chances. We had a chance to move back (in the draft) and decided not to.” High praise for the Australian defensive tackle.
Growing up Down Under
The son of Louis and Doxy, Gotsis grew up in a “rough” suburb. He went to Kew High School, playing Aussie Rules football for twelve seasons. He started to grow tired (translation: bored) of the sport and wanted to play an alternative game like rugby.
His mother knew that he loved playing the video game Madden Football and mentioned playing gridiron could be a solution.
“Me and mum were looking on Google for local clubs and and we saw a flyer for American football,” Gotsis said.
“I fitted in straight away because of my size and then as…the years slowly got on I started to get better and better, I started getting recognised by a few coaches that were heavily invested in the sport back home and then started competing at a national level, international level and then started slowly making my way over to the States talking to schools.”
In 2011 Gotsis won the league MVP in his senior season for the Monash Warriors, taking to the game like a natural. Paul Manera, an American ex-pat teaching American football in Australia, identified Gotsis as a talented pass rusher. This was significant as it was the first time Gotsis started to understand his potential.
Manera played college football for the University of Hawaii where he became good friends with his coach, a guy by the name of Paul Johnson. The two maintained their friendship as their careers moved forward in different directions with Johnson later becoming Head Coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
While coaching in Australia, Manera phoned Johnson and told him about this kid from down under that possessed the skillset required to be a successful NFL player. The Georgia Tech head coach thought it was a risk worth taking and invited Gotsis over to Atlanta on a recruiting trip and offered him a scholarship.
College football at Georgia Tech
Gotsis played four seasons for Georgia Tech, and in his second season he posted 38 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, two blocked kicks and an interception. He posted similar numbers in his junior season and in week three of his senior season he was voted team captain by his teammates.
Gotsis was chosen to the 2015 All-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Football team as selected by the conference’s opposing coaches.
He was widely regarded as one of the best defensive lineman in college football prior to tearing his ACL, a season ending knee injury suffered against Virginia in late 2015. After his final college season was completed, Gotsis was invited to participate in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.
He declined the invitation to attend Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, however, and opted to hold his own draft combine at Georgia Tech under the close eyes of his coaches and medical staff.
A smart and wary Gotsis was ensuring that he didn’t compromise the recovery of his injured knee.
Gotsis graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Business Administration in December 2015.
“With the 63rd Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select…”
Deep in the four walls of the Denver Broncos war room, where millions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of man hours invested in finding the next biggest talent, the General Manager picks up the phone and dials Gotsis’ number.
“Adam. John Elway. How are you sir?” From that moment Gotsis knew he was off to Colorado. Elway continued, “we’re thrilled that you’re going to be a Denver Bronco…come in here and have a tremendous career.”
Gotsis was surround by family and friends on Draft day. He told BNS Denver, “they actually thought I was going to the Panthers,” he explained with a laugh.
All that hard work was finally paying off and no one was more proud than his mum who was watching the draft live on TV, back home in Australia.
“I’ve spoken to him. We cried, first of all,” she said.
“It was just incredible. Still very quite emotional. Because of the injury at the end of last year we were worried. He’s just so excited. He’s ready to go and do his job.”
Making it in the NFL
According to the NFL Players Association calculations, the chances of a high school football player making it in the NFL are about 0.2 per cent percent. This percentage is based on the statistic that approximately 215 out of 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, make it to the NFL.
Only about 9,000 people of the original 100,000 make it to play at the college level. This is a reason why getting a college education is essential for a budding footballer.
Gotsis getting drafted to the reigning Super Bowl champions is huge. It’s a testament to his work ethic, determination, sacrifice and maturity.
Reflecting on his journey he said, “it more shows you just how much work it took to come over here, you know I was really committed to do something big and I left my whole family to come over to college for four years. My family didn’t move over here with me I was by myself so you know it shows the maturity that I have and the development to me as a person.”
That maturity is a characteristic admired by Bill Kollar, Broncos defensive line coach who met Gotsis at the Combine.
He said of Gotsis, “we really liked him. He’s one of the gym-rat type of guys that all he wants to do is end up playing football and he’s going to work out all the time and do whatever he can do, to end up getting as good as he can get. And that’s really what you want, you need guys that really live and breathe football and that’s what we’ve got in Adam.”
Gotsis is viewed as a long-term project, but the Denver Broncos have high expectations for him.
After all, he will be the future replacement for defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who was an unrestricted free agent and left in the preseason signing a lucrative $90M-contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gotsis knows what he is capable of and what he can offer the franchise.
“They’re just going to get a guy that’s an absolute warrior out there…I pride myself on being one of the toughest in the game and [being] relentless. I think I’m going to be that savage out there [and] that’s one thing I pride myself on being that guy. So, I got to get a healthy, but [I] just have to take it one step at a time, I’m looking forward to being here,” Gotsis said.
Arriving at the Denver Broncos
Gotsis’ new life begins in Denver, and the thought of playing in roped off suburban fields with no stadiums and grabbing a couple of beers after the game in Australia is now a distant memory. He signed a four-year, $3.93M contract with the Denver Broncos and is now the 77th highest paid defensive tackle in the league of approximately 211 players at that position.
Nevertheless, he does not let the hype go to his head. He is trying to settle in as quickly as possible yet admits he has been overwhelmed by the support of the Denver people, including ex-pats living in the area.
“They’ve been a few Aussies that have reached out to me…so it’s exciting to see when I get some time off…I have a few family friends…that…have opened up the doors with wide arms for me so yeah it’s an exciting time and just looking forward to it.”
Gotsis has the mental capacity to compete. However, he is still on the injury reserve list and is unable to participate in Organised Team Activities (OTAs) until he fully recovers from his knee injury.
He admits not being able to participate is a challenge, “you just have to visualise yourself being out there in the position with the guys. That’s all I’m doing at the moment and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good hold of things so far. It’s going to be exciting when I can be out there and how I pick it up.”
Gotsis is a tough, blue collar defender who plays every down to the whistle with a streak of nastiness. His strength is getting into the backfield to stop the running game while adding value as a special teams member.
The Denver Broncos, established in 1960, are one of America’s proudest sporting franchises. Gotsis is now an important piece to the Broncos defensive puzzle proving that childhood dreams can come true.
If Gotsis could be remembered for one thing, he wants it to be his legacy. He wants to play for years, become a veteran, win championships become an all-pro and when he looks back on his career and people ask who’s that one person you loved playing football with? He wants the answer to be, Adam Gotsis.
He’s not alone, he has every Australian in his corner. Adam, we’re rooting for you, mate.