February 8, 2007

Spartans see potential in Celek

Garrett Celek didn't catch a pass the past two seasons at Cincinnati's LaSalle High School, but that didn't stop the new Michigan State coaching staff from recruiting Celek to play tight end for the Spartans.

Celek, who committed to Michigan State in early December, spent his final two years of high school playing left tackle.

"We needed him there," said LaSalle head coach Tom Grippa. "Garrett was our best offensive lineman by far and that's where he could help us the most.

"He's got great feet and long arms, so he was an excellent pass blocker. And when he hit you he definitely had some pop to him."

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Celek also was challenged every day in practice by LaSalle defensive end Ben Martin (6-5, 230). Martin, ranked the No. 3 strongside defensive end in the country by Rivals.com, is a four-star prospect with offers from Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame and Tennessee, among others.

According to Grippa, Celek won his share of battles against Martin.

"Garrett was one of the few players I saw who could block Ben Martin," Grippa said. "Those two went at it every day in practice. It was fun to watch."

That blocking ability will serve Celek well at Michigan State, which is expected to place added emphasis on the running game, sometimes with multiple tight ends, under first-year coach Mark Dantonio.

Celek originally committed to Dantonio back in June when Dantonio was the head coach at Cincinnati. When Dantonio took the Michigan State job on Nov. 27 Celek wasted little time in reopening his recruitment. He took his official visit to Michigan State the first weekend in December and committed to the Spartans soon thereafter.

This past season Celek earned All-Greater Catholic League honors and was an honorable mention all-state performer. He won the GCL discus title last spring with a throw of 155 feet.

"Garrett has gone from being a tall, skinny kid when he first got here," Grippa said, "to filling out and being one of the best athletes in Southwest Ohio."

Three years of hard work in the weight room allowed Celek to put up some impressive numbers, including a 500-pound squat and a 375-pound clean-and-jerk. But all that weight lifting didn't slow Celek down.

"He ran a 4.7 at the Ohio State camp this summer," Grippa said. "The Ohio State coaches said Garrett was the second-most impressive guy at the whole camp."

While Ohio State never officially offered Celek, the Buckeyes did show "strong interest," according to Grippa. Other schools that continued to pursue Celek after his original commitment to Cincinnati included Louisville, Indiana and a number of Mid-American Conference schools.

Outside of his daily matchups against Martin, Celek's highlight game this year came on Sept. 8 in a 28-14 win over Xenia.

"We had 400 yards of offense," Grippa said. "We run one play where the tackle has to get out and take on the Will linebacker and Garrett was very good at that. Anytime you can get an athlete like that moving in space good things are going to happen."

Grippa has no doubt Celek will be able to make the move back to being a tight end once he arrives at Michigan State.

"He's going to need to make the transition to catching the ball," Grippa said. "But I'm sure he'll be able to do it because he's got a great work ethic."

It also can't hurt that playing tight end seems to run in the Celek bloodlines. Garrett's older brother, Brent, a senior at Cincinnati, was recently named the Bearcats' MVP and was an All-Big East selection at tight end. He owns the UC career marks for tight ends in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

And while Grippa believes Garrett Celek could play either tight end or on the offensive line at Michigan State, there's one thing he's certain of.

"By the time Garrett is a senior he'll be a captain," he said. "Because he's a leader."

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