Sport

Melbourne-born Adam Gotsis on the high-pressure world of America’s NFL. By Donna Walker-Mitchell.
Credit: SUPPLIED

Pushing through: Adam Gotsis, 24, American football player

I am in a high-pressure environment, for sure. Especially with the team coming off a Super Bowl win last season and me being one of the new guys. A lot of the guys expect nothing but to win again this year so you have to come in with that same mentality. I have to help these guys win the Super Bowl. Bottom line.

When everything is going right, it’s easy to come in and go to work. We started well with four wins and then had the two losses. It’s the same with any job. When things are going well it’s pretty easy to come in to the office. When we don’t win, you can feel the difference. You have to work harder. It’s that simple.

It is awesome having teammates like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. They’re two of the best players in the history of football. They’re complete professionals in the way they handle their business both on and off the field throughout the week, and the way they prepare. They do everything right. That way, on game day they can go out and be free and play hard.

I had a pretty normal childhood for an Australian kid. I grew up in the Abbotsford–Richmond area of Melbourne and I played a tonne of sports. I was always active. A lot of my childhood involved sport and just growing up in that environment. I did everything with my brothers and sisters and I come from a pretty close-knit family. We were always together and I wouldn’t change that. My mum did a great job of looking after us all and making sure we all got to our games on time. I was so lucky to have her as my mum and so lucky to have a household like that. When I think about it, a lot of kids don’t get to have those opportunities and I’m so thankful I did.

The blokes on my team try to mimic my Australian accent. They make fun of me for the way I say some words, but it’s all in good fun. They’re all good guys. It’s a brotherhood. You come into a locker room, you earn their respect and you’re pretty much family on the field. You’ve got to be able to trust them and they have to be able to trust you. It’s a great group to be a part of and I really couldn’t be more happy than the place where I landed.

To be successful in this sport, you’ve got to have the mentality where either you get pushed back or you push them back. It’s kind of a pride thing you have to carry in the game. You have to have that way of thinking to play defence. You have to have that attacking mentality. The guys here do a good job of carrying that into games.

There’s a tradition where the team has a bit of fun with rookies like me. My initiation wasn’t too bad, but they did give us rookie haircuts. It was a terrible haircut, absolutely terrible. They left me a little soul patch and then gave me a George Costanza style on the side. It wasn’t pretty, but all in good fun. 

You have to have persistence and you have to put in the hard work. You’ve got to keep positive and keep working. Otherwise you will never get to the top.

I’m always getting asked questions about Australia. A lot of people think Australia is just desert everywhere. I have to explain, no, it’s not. I live in the city, we don’t ride kangaroos. A few of them are pretty shocked we do eat kangaroo though. It throws people off. They think we regard the kangaroo as a sacred animal yet we’re out there eating them. I explain that it’s good eating. It’s good meat.

A big moment for me was when my mum sat down with me one day when I was about 14 or 15 and she could see I was down. I was playing with a bunch of different teams, doing Aussie rules, cricket and basketball. I was always on the go. She asked me straight out if I was having fun. Mum always told me, “If you’re having fun, keep doing it, but if you’re not, then don’t.” As long as I was happy she was happy. So I thought about it and the next day I told her I was going to stop playing with one of the basketball teams – the Melbourne Tigers. I said, “You know, I’m just going to give that team up for a season.” It was a huge time commitment because a game with them could have been as far away as Frankston, plus all the training as well. 

Everything changed after that day. I started enjoying sport again and really going for it. Whether it’s sport or anything in life, Mum always told us to just enjoy it and take the most out of it. She always says it’s important to have a smile on your face.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 5, 2016 as "Pushing through". Subscribe here.

Donna Walker-Mitchell
is an Australian journalist based in Los Angeles.

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