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Penn State's Mike Gesicki looks forward to New Jersey homecoming

The Southern High graduate said he expects a large cheering section Saturday night when the Nittany Lions take on Rutgers in Piscataway.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Mike Gesicki never used to be a fan of the sideline pep talk.

Last season, the Penn State tight end would come off the field, take his seat on the bench, and watch the defense in silence.

But something changed at the beginning of the 2016 season. As the team struggled in early losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan, the junior realized his role needed to change.

"I had no right sitting down when the team - we had things to accomplish still," Gesicki said Tuesday. "Ever since then, I don't sit down on the sidelines. I'm pacing up and down the sidelines. I'm talking to the O-line, giving high fives, telling people what we're going to do."

After struggling as a sophomore, Gesicki has played a much larger role on the offense this season. He has logged 37 catches for 499 yards. He recorded only 13 for 125 last year.

Saturday's matchup with Rutgers will be a homecoming for Gesicki, a Manahawkin, N.J. native and Southern Regional High School graduate.

"My dad texted me this morning and said, 'If you can get a hundred tickets, I can get a hundred people to go,'" Gesicki said with a laugh. "So I'm definitely scrapping for some tickets right now. I'm asking everybody. Doing whatever it takes."

Gesicki said he expects the Scarlet Knights to be a formidable opponent, despite their 2-8 record.

He recalled walking into a tough environment at Rutgers' stadium his freshman year. Gesicki said he fed off the boos and was fueled by any trash talk. He isn't looking at Saturday as an easy win.

"Rutgers is a good football team. They have a lot of talent. They have a great head coach. They're going to be more determined and more focused than ever to get a win," Gesicki said. "We're not overlooking anybody."