BY RICKY POLLITT
Anyone who knows Stefan Gaszynski would probably describe him as entertaining, funny, hardworking and humble.
The Salisbury University senior offensive lineman has grown quite a bit since his days as a fullback at Howell High School. Throughout changing positions, transferring schools and sitting the bench to start his college career, Gaszynski now realizes what one needs to do in order to succeed in life.
“I was kind of a cocky jerk in high school, and even told my high school coach I didn’t want to play in college unless it was a Division I school,” Gaszynski said. “When I got here though, I realized I wasn’t that good, but Coach Doug Fleetwood taught me about working hard, and really working at something to get better.”
After playing at Howell for a year, Gaszynski transferred to Colts Neck where he got his first taste of life on the offensive line.
“They were short some guys, so I ended up starting at left guard, and got my butt kicked a couple of times,” Gaszynski said while laughing. “My junior and senior year I progressed and started getting some college interest.”
Playing on the offensive line, recognition doesn’t come easy to players who deserve it. In many cases, linemen are only referenced when being flagged for a penalty or missing a block.
Gaszynski’s name may not show up in the stats as much as his fellow teammates; however, he realizes the line’s impact causes his teammates to have big games.
“We put up 91 points against Southern Virginia throwing two passes, so fans can see that’s a rushing offense, and to us that’s pretty good recognition. When I have a running back have over 100 yards a game, I take that as recognition,” Gaszynski said. “The running backs know what we do and why it’s so important.”
SU’s line this year has allowed the Gulls to put up 422.6 rushing yards a game, while helping the offense score 25 rushing touchdowns.
Just two weeks ago, SU set a program record by putting up 651 rushing yards against William Paterson. While most credit was given to the running backs, head coach Sherman Wood knows the lineman play a big part in his team’s success.
“On game day I don’t walk out with the skill guys,” Wood said. “I walk out with the linemen. They’re the meat of our program.”
Like many college athletes, Gaszynski models his game off the play of pro athletes, and from information he’s learned from reading.
“I found an old book in my basement; Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer, so I’ve been reading his book, and it’s just so similar how offensive linemen think,” he said. “I’ll get done a day of practice and think that sucked, and I’ll read his book and hear him say the same things.”
As a player making the jump from fullback to offensive line, the book really helped Gaszynski learn how to play the position and continue to develop year after year.
“[Kramer] talks a lot about using your hands well, and keeping your head back on pass plays. The biggest two things I’ve gotten from the book are hard work and mentality, and as far as offensive line, good hands and good feet,” Gaszynski said.
Come game day, Gaszynski focuses only on winning and clearing the way for his offense to put points on the board. However, the senior lineman always finds time to joke around and have a good time, on and off the field.
He and his roommates have developed a passion for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and love rooting on Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan.
Along with watching WWE, Gaszynski enjoys a hobby not too many SU students are familiar with.
“I like to smoke meats,” Gaszynski said. “I get a nice pork shoulder and some ribs and smoke it up for like 10 hours. That’s pretty much my favorite thing to do on the weekends.”
With SU’s season continuing to wind down, Gaszynski knows his days in the maroon and gold are limited.
Many athletes come into college wishing to make a permanent mark on their school deeming them one of the best college players of all time.
Gaszynski is different though. He knows as a lineman he won’t be the player everyone remembers, or the guy who shows up in all the highlight reels. Instead he wants people to remember him for something different.
“I thinks it’s about the work that I put in off the field. I want to be able to come back and see the freshman now say, ‘that Gaszynski kid, he was always working hard,’” he said. “I’d be pretty content to go down as one of the better offensive lines, not focusing on myself because that’s not what it’s all about.”
Gaszynski’s humble nature shows how much he’s grown since his days as a fullback in high school. He focuses on his team now, rather than the individual glory. Regardless of how Salisbury finishes its season, whether it be hoisting up a national championship trophy, or coming one game short of the playoffs, Gaszynski will surely be remembered. Not for the individual play, but for the way he treated the game of football; the way every player should treat the game.
“Learning how to work hard and earn something really helped me get where I am today,” Gaszynski said. “And I know I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”