March 20, 2007
by Justin Whelan
Gerry Gdowski sat in his office in front of a large dry-erase board. Scribbled on the left side of the board were words of football offense: flex, gun, slot and others.
A large black binder lay on Gdowski's desk.
"Recruits we're already looking at for 2008," he said, pointing to the binder.
Just a few weeks after the Ohio coaching staff finished recruiting for the 2007 season, Gdowski had on his desk a three-inch binder so full of 2008 prospects that its covers ran parallel.
Such binders are what mark a football coach's life - a journey that has taken Gdowski from a small Nebraska town to Athens, where he now works as the quarterbacks coach for the Bobcats.
Preparing for his third season here, Gdowski interacts often with the quarterbacks - so often that senior quarterback Austen Everson considers him a close friend.
"Even now that I'm done he still helps me out whether I'm looking for a job or need a reference," Everson said. "I even gave him some of my deer meat to cook up."
Gdowski says his philosophy as a quarterback coach is to help his quarterbacks reach their potential on the field and as students.
"If you succeed on the football field and don't get your degree," he said, "we've failed somehow."
The support he lends his quarterbacks does not go unnoticed.
"Whether you go out and throw three touchdowns or three interceptions, he's always supporting you," Everson said. "He always knows you can get the job done."
Gdowski brought that mindset here after the Bobcats signed Frank Solich, a former coach of his.
Ohio was hardly his first stop, though. Gdowski has traveled in all directions, playing and coaching the game that he loves.
The first step on his coaching journey was actually to decide on which sport. He had been a standout in football, basketball and track at Fremont High School, so that did not make his decision easy. Having a father as his football coach might have had a small bit of influence.
"I grew up around the sport," Gdowski said. "Even though I really enjoyed those other things, football was going to allow me to play at the highest level in college."
Gdowski graduated in 1985 as valedictorian, and he then traveled south down U.S. 77 to the University of Nebraska to play football for the Cornhuskers.
Deciding on Nebraska was easy.
"Growing up in Nebraska, that's the focus - Nebraska football," he said. "When you're a little kid, that's who you are when you're out playing."
There, Gdowski found himself on the sideline for most of his first three years.
"It was a lot of fighting and scratching and doing everything I could to try to get on the field," he said. "It was something that I loved doing and wanted to keep figuring out ways to get better."
He got better.
So much better that his senior year, 1989, he was elected captain, started and set school records for most touchdowns in a game and in a season.
After a brief stint with the New Orleans Saints, he faced the prospects of his football days being over. Gdowski used his Nebraska degree and got a job in accounting. Soon though, he found that he was not enjoying himself.
He visited a Cornhuskers practice over Christmas break, and the coaches approached him and asked him to help out.
"Growing up around it with my dad being a coach and not really being happy in what I was doing at the time, it made sense," he said. "I really haven't looked back since then."
Gdowski first served as a graduate assistant at Nebraska, and he then went on to coach at South Dakota State for three years and New Mexico State for eight.
He now lives in Athens with his wife Sam, and their three sons.
"Once you have children, a lot of your focus goes towards them," he said. "Keeping your job becomes the No. 1 priority."
Gdowski admits that eventually moving up in the coaching ranks is something that has crossed his mind.
"I've kind of found that you really can't worry too much about that stuff," he said. "You just really have to prepare - prepare everyday and work hard and hopefully that kind of stuff will work itself out down the road."
If the past is any indication, he shouldn't have trouble working up the ranks, and he shouldn't have any problems at all landing a good share of the best talent in his binder.