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A freshman perspective from Josh Gontarek

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By Megan Salle

Staff Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com

Feb. 24, 2015

Josh Gontarek had a strong season for UAlbany. Photo from UAlbany Athletics
Josh Gontarek had a strong season for UAlbany. Photo from UAlbany Athletics

   “My high school was in the middle of a cornfield,” Josh Gontarek said. “Kids will bring their tractors to school. It gets crazy.” This is what the freshman wide receiver said about Linganore High School, in Frederick, Md.

   Before he scored a team-high nine touchdowns this past football season at the University at Albany, he grew up in a much different setting in Mount Airy, Md.

   He said football was kind of easy in high school, and it showed. Gontarek has his name in Linganore’s record books with the most single season receiving yards.

   “It’s good to go to a mall back home and still talk to young football players and I still have the record over them and stuff,” Gontarek said. “It’s like a title on my back.”

   Another title he earned was the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Rookie of the Year, but this time he was a Great Dane.

   “I didn’t think it was possible for me,” Gontarek said. “I’m still not yet satisfied because I want to keep going. I would like to get player of the year because that is everybody, not just the rookies.”

   The senior offensive trio of quarterback Will Fiacchi, wide receiver Cole King, and running back Omar Osbourne played their final games in purple and gold this past season.

   It will be a challenge for Gontarek to fill King’s shoes as a sophomore. King is the second all-time leader for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches in UAlbany program history.

   “I’m not going to say I’m ready for it, but it is hard to explain. I’m only a freshman,” Gontarek said. “So I definitely think I could become a leader eventually.”

   Gontarek learned a lot from Fiacchi, one of the captains. One lesson was how to be straightforward and build a strong bond.

   “After practice we would stay after and talk and stuff. We weren’t afraid to tell each other something. If he made a bad throw I would tell him and if I had to do something better he would tell me,” Gontarek said. “We just had a good relationship.”

   Their connection was often successful and so was Gontarek’s season. He finished with 58 receptions, 687 receiving yards, and was named to two award watch lists.

   He was named to the 2014 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) FCS National Freshman Performer of the Year and Jerry Rice Award Watch Lists. Although Gontarek did not win either of these awards, he made a strong statement to be recognized, especially in the CAA.

   The four-time CAA Player of the Week not only finished his rookie campaign as a Great Dane by learning a lot from his teammates, but his teammates learned from him as well. There was one defining moment that Gontarek will take away from his season.

   “In the Villanova game, Brian Parker, NFL type, just scored a touchdown. He put his toes at the end of the line and just dragged them. He ran a great route and everything,” Gontarek said with a smile. “He came up to me on the sideline and said, ‘I learned that from you.’ I’ll always remember that.”

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