Southern Regional senior wide receiver Mike Gesicki, who is regarded as the top tight end prospect in the country, announced on Thursday night that he has verbally committed to Penn State.

(Photo by Bill Normile)

A tremendous athlete and three-sport star at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Gesicki's choice came down to the Nittany Lions and Ohio State out of 20-plus FBS scholarship offers. Gesicki said in a news release by Southern that he chose Penn State for great academics, a great football program, tradition and future, and he felt felt comfortable around the players.

“This recruiting process has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for myself and I just want to thank all the schools around the country that offered me a scholarship and gave me a chance,'' Gesicki said in a statement. "I mostly would like to thank The Ohio State University for recruiting me so hard and Coach Urban Meyer. This process has been unreal but I’m thankful that I finally know where I’ll be heading."

Gesicki is ready to join a Nittany Lions team that currently includes linebacker Glenn Carson, a fellow Southern graduate, former Red Bank Regional star defensive end Garrett Sickels, and former Toms River North All-Shore kicker Chris Gulla. He took an official visit to Happy Valley last weekend and was in attendance at Penn State's quadruple overtime upset of Michigan. He was hosted on his visit by freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, an emerging star who looks to be the one throwing passes to Gesicki for the next three years.

“Very well, both on and off the field,'' Gesicki said about how he looks to fit in. "The degree that I will receive will show my hard work in the classroom and what is done on the field under a offensive minded head coach. The sky is the limit”

This season, he has 12 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns for the 2-2 Rams. As a junior, he was a first-team All-Shore pick with a school-record 50 catches for 958 yards and 9 touchdowns for a Southern team that reached the South Jersey Group V final.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his decision,'' Southern athletic director Chuck Donohue Sr. said in a statement. "I am very happy for him. I also would like to congratulate his parents Mike Sr. and Donna on raising a good kid and enjoying this experience/decision in Michael’s life. Michael is a solid student and very gifted athletically. I am very proud of him. I hope that kids can learn from him, in playing whatever sports you want. He did not just concentrate on one sport which seems to be the norm these days. He played sports caused he loved to compete and I think that is a huge attribute to him. I wish him nothing but the best.”

Gesicki's commitment now gives the Shore Conference Class of 2014 five FBS recruits, as he joins Red Bank Catholic lineman Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame); Manalapan wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Rutgers); Raritan lineman Pat Toal (Old Dominion); and Rumson-Fair Haven defensive end Donald Bedell (Rutgers). Toms River South running back/linebacker Otis Kearney has Michigan State as a front-runner among multiple FBS offers, Lakewood lineman Ben Watson has offers from Temple and Old Dominion, St. John Vianney defensive end Justin Gille has FBS offers from Buffalo and Old Dominion, and Colts Neck running back/linebacker Anthony Gargiulo has an offer from Navy along with multiple FCS offers.