|Gessner hopes for a chance with the Seahawks|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 04 June 2008 23:45|
Owner of a Super Bowl ring? Ivy League educated? Champion in the now defunct NFL Europe? Budding Arena Football League star? Journeyman?
``I don't know what that makes me,'' Gessner said.
At this moment in Gessner's ever-evolving professional life, he's a wide receiver with the Seattle Seahawks. Gessner might be a longshot to make a roster already brimming with unproven, young talent looking to catch the eye of coach Mike Holmgren and a few passes from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
But it's Gessner's journey to this point that makes the story of this 6-foot-5, 26-year-old native of Wheaton, Md.
The Ivy League education? That's courtesy of Brown University, where Gessner majored in history and minored in business - ``just stay away from math,'' he adds - sprinkling in football and lacrosse around his studies.
The Super Bowl ring comes from his first stop in the NFL, when Gessner was an undrafted free agent who signed with New England in 2003. Despite a hamstring injury, Gessner stuck around long enough on the Patriots' practice squad to watch their 32-29 win over Carolina in the title game and get himself some jewelry.
After the Super Bowl, Gessner went overseas and won a title in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder. But it was after that experience that Gessner's life truly became nomadic.
First it was off to New York with the Jets, who placed him on their practice squad for a year, then released him during the following training camp. After a season without football, Gessner found work in Tampa Bay, only to sit on the practice squad again, and be released, again.
``You never know what's going on behind the scenes,'' he said.
Only in the last year has Gessner found the type of work he wants in football.
Gessner was re-signed by the Buccaneers during the 2007 season and was active for his first NFL game. As usual, Gessner was released once an injured Bucs starter was healthy again.
But the opportunity with Tampa Bay led to a job with the Orlando Predators in the AFL, coached by Jay Gruden, the brother of Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden.
``Jay Gruden was always at practice (and) said it would be a good opportunity,'' Gessner said. ``It's just as good as working out. He told me I could leave if I got an offer from an NFL team.''
That offer came, but not before Gessner made an impression on the AFL. In 11 games, Gessner caught 76 passes and 20 touchdowns, and was named the league's rookie of the month in March. But soon came a call from the Seahawks, who were a surprising suitor since Gessner previously had tryouts with Cleveland and Atlanta.
``I never really thought about settling on (Arena Football) as the end. It was always a goal of mine to try and make it back to the NFL,'' Gessner said. ``I felt like the last couple of places I might not have gotten as good of an opportunity as maybe I could have. I just said to myself that if a situation comes up that looks like a really good opportunity, a really good situation, I've got to go for it.''
Where he fits in Seattle's muddled receivers corps will be played out mostly during training camp next month. Having played in Tampa Bay, Gessner has a basic understanding of the Seahawks' system, but is still getting caught up on all the terminology.
``He learns well, he retains well,'' Seahawks receivers coach Keith Gilbertson said. ``He's got good size and excellent hands.''
Seattle will likely carry only five or six receivers when the season begins and Gessner is competing against other young pass catchers who were with the Seahawks last year.
``I've always been an overachiever,'' he said. ``To play in this league, that's something I intend to accomplish.''