Gilman's Gaia will have an International experience on National Signing Day
Lineman plans to sign with Penn State and play in the International Bowl on Wednesday
Two-way Gilman lineman Brian Gaia admits he reconsidered his commitment to Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke. But he's sticking with the Nittany Lions and plans to sign with them Wednesday morning. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / October 7, 2011)
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Gilman School, 5407 Roland Ave, Baltimore, MD 21210-1990, USA
The All-Metro lineman has been in Austin, Texas, this week preparing for Wednesday night's International Bowl, which pits the United States Under-19 team against a World Team of players from 20 countries, including American Samoa, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan and Mexico.
The players, however, will take a little time out of their busy schedule for a national signing day breakfast celebration, during which Gaia plans to sign with Penn State, a program he remained committed to through the uncertain ramifications of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal and the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno.
"I was disappointed at first," Gaia said, "but then I sat down and realized I was just going to wait it out and see what happened and from there I'd make my choice. I'm not going to lie about [considering rescinding the oral commitment]. I did, but I knew deep down that they weren't going to let it fall apart because football is everything up there."
Gaia will put all of that behind him when he signs Wednesday. Dozens of other local athletes also will make their commitments official on the opening day of the official signing period for football, soccer, field hockey, cross country and track.
At the International Bowl, Gaia is one 47 U.S. Team players and seven from the World Team expected to sign Wednesday. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex and will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
Last month, Gaia played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix, and he finds national all-star games a good bridge from high school to college ball.
"It's kind of like a step into college football because you're playing against better athletes now and everybody's a good player there just like it will be in college," he said. "You want to win the game, but it doesn't matter if you don't. You're just there to have fun and show how good your friends are."
At the International Bowl, Gaia also looked forward to meeting players from other nations who share the common language of football and seeing how they play the game.
"I think [the style] will be the same, but it will be interesting to see how other countries stack up against America," said Gaia, the second Gilman player to participate in the three-year old International Bowl after lineman Hunter Goodwin last year.
At the Semper Fi Bowl, the 6-foot-4 Gaia was named one of the top three lineman, despite having cut nearly 20 pounds from his 295-pound playing weight for wrestling season.
CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming selected Gaia for both bowl games.
"He's super strong," Lemming said. "He's 100 percent on every play, offense or defense. His versatility was a big reason why I selected him. He can play on either side of the ball where a lot of kids either can't or they don't want to. Brian's a guy who could play offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive tackle. He can do it all. His versatility is unique."
At No. 1 Gilman, where Gaia was a two-time All-Metro offensive lineman, he dominated the line of scrimmage. Coach Biff Poggi called him the best linemen he has ever coached. The 17-year old led the way last fall for an offense that ran for 2,727 yards and, on the defensive line, he excelled as a run stopper.
His versatility might earn him an unusual opportunity Wednesday night.
"He might play a little bit of fullback, which will be interesting," Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell said. "I'm not sure what the thinking is there, but he would be a big powerful lead blocker. He might be the biggest fullback ever in high school football."
At Penn State, Gaia will play defensive tackle, where he said he will have a chance to compete for playing time right away.
"They said one of the three [defensive] tackles in this class are going to have to play a little as true freshmen, so that opens up the competition between all of us. I'd really like to play as a true freshmen, but even if I did get redshirted or something like that, it would give me a year to get bigger and get used to college both academically and athletics-wise."
Gaia has a 3.4 GPA and plans to major in business, although he hopes to be on course for the NFL. He chose Penn State over Auburn, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, West Virginia, Iowa, Maryland, Connecticut, Syracuse and Central Florida.