RW Recruiting: A Visit with JUCO All-American Offensive Lineman Mike Gatz
OXFORD, Miss. — “When an underdog wins, they win for everybody, because somebody’s gotta come through that door and break it open and make it possible.”
Singer/songwriter Saint Jhn
Those lyrics could refer to offensive lineman Mike Gatz as they certainly apply to the underdog from Illinois. While Gatz’ name might not yet ring a bell, look for him to come through that door and break it open!
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound center from Woodstock, Illinois received a preferred walk-on (PWO) offer last week from Ole Miss offensive line coach Jake Thornton.
After a conversation with @CoachThornton61, I’m extremely honored and blessed to receive an opportunity to continue my career at the UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI!! @MasonBehiel @OleMissFB @Dupage_Football @FBCoach_Rahn @JUCOFFrenzy pic.twitter.com/SwEDGlsJKQ
— Mike Gatz (@mgatz4475) January 24, 2022
Gatz, like many prospects looking for an opportunity to pursue their dreams, faced a difficult road as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, visits were shut down, and opportunities became more scarce.
However, Gatz wasn’t going to let that stop him from being discovered, so like many prospects in his class he decided to enroll in a junior college.
Juco creates battle-tested players. One of the best decisions I’ve made https://t.co/K54SV6iMWB
— Mike Gatz (@mgatz4475) January 24, 2022
Now, his talent and name are quickly on the rise.
Last season, Gatz helped his College of Dupage (Illinois) team finish as NJCAA National Champs, and he earned first-team All-America honors — as a true freshman — in the process.
Full season highlights including National Championship
4 for 3 full qualifier @Dupage_Football @FBCoach_Rahn @JUCOFFrenzy @JuCoFootballACE @JuCoFBN https://t.co/sbd9ZADjtx
— Mike Gatz (@mgatz4475) December 16, 2021
He will have four years to play three full seasons at the college he picks.
Gatz currently holds PWO offers from Ole Miss, Marshall and St. Thomas (MN), but they are not the only ones who have eyes on this monster Midwestern center. Indiana, Baylor, Texas Tech, Wyoming and Oklahoma State are just a few of the Power 5 programs showing interest in Gatz.
We had a chance to catch up with Gatz shortly after his offer from the Rebels.
Rebel Walk: What led you to go the JUCO route?
Gatz: COVID took away a lot of opportunities for guys like me to be seen by schools. Camps were canceled and visits were canceled, so I went JUCO to earn the opportunities I thought I deserved.
Rebel Walk: There is a lot of talent just waiting to be found in JUCO programs. What would you say is your ‘x-factor’ that has attracted these offers, in particular from Ole Miss?
Gatz: My X factor is either my football IQ, being able to know what is supposed to happen on every play and dissect defensive game plans, or it is my toughness — being able to keep going when it hurts and push through the pain, and get the job done at all costs necessary.
Rebel Walk: Recruiting relationships don’t happen over night. What has meant most and stood out about how Ole Miss and Coach Thornton have recruited you?
Gatz: The thing that stood out most about Coach Thornton and Ole Miss is their upfront honesty, which can be hard to come by these days. Also, the fact that Coach Thornton was a walk-on so he understands what it entails.
Rebel Walk: You are on the radar for a lot of top programs now. How soon do you see yourself making a visit down to Oxford?
Gatz: Under the time constraints, I do not plan to visit but I plan to make my decision here very soon.
Rebel Walk: Recruiting has changed tremendously with COVID and now the transfer portal. What is your advice for other JUCO prospects looking to get seen by schools like Ole Miss?
Gatz: Trust the process and keep your nose on the grindstone. No matter the obstacles, these coaches will find talent. The number one thing is always bet on yourself.
Fit In The Sip
While Gatz has not made an official announcement as to where he will play next, here are just a few quick observations on why he is a ‘Fit In The ‘Sip’ for the Ole Miss offense.
- Great run blocking ability
- Solid on his footwork with speed to back it up
- Good hand placement
- Good Size
He really was born to be a center, though he could also play elsewhere on the line if needed, and he would give the Rebels much-needed depth.
Keep your eye on this underdog, folks! He’ll be busting through the door soon!
(Feature image graphic: Lee Ann Herring)
Lee Ann is the Director of Recruiting for The Rebel Walk. She is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is also the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.