At David Gordeuk’s first football practice, he didn’t even fully understand the concept of first downs.
That practice — which was for State College Area High School — was barely more than two years ago.
“He really didn’t know the game to start with. His first day of practice, it was just like taking a newborn out on to the field,” said Dirk Grissinger, Gordeuk’s defensive line coach in high school.
Since that first day on the gridiron, Gordeuk has come a long way.
The Port Matilda native has become a Division-I defensive end as he earned himself a spot on Navy’s football roster. Though as a true freshman, Gordeuk does not dress for road games and will not travel with the Midshipmen when they visit Beaver Stadium this Saturday, he’s still taken a unique journey to get where he is today.
Gordeuk grew up on a farm just miles away from State College. However, he said he wasn’t a huge football fan growing up. He noted he paid some attention to how Penn State was doing and went to some home games, but never followed football closely until he started playing.
Not only did Gordeuk work on the farm where he grew up, it’s also where he was educated for the majority of his upbringing. Though he started taking some classes at State High in sixth grade, Gordeuk was not a full-time student at the school until his senior year, and was home-schooled for the rest of his education.
While he wasn’t in school and playing team sports, Gordeuk was still competing in athletic activities as a child, including skiing and hiking.
Gordeuk’s father, Daniel, battled with prostate cancer for much of his son’s life, a battle he lost when David was 12. So it was David’s mother, Diane, who did a lot of the teaching at home.
When Gordeuk first started taking some classes in public school, football was not the first sport he tried. That sport was track and field, and it’s something Gordeuk excelled at through the years. By the time he was a senior in high school, Gordeuk made it to the state championships in both the shot put and the discus.
As some time passed and Gordeuk — who now stands at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds — started getting to know people better at school, his friends wanted him to play another sport.
“As I started integrating into public school, I started to get to know kids, and a lot of my friends were on the football team,” Gordeuk said. “And they kept saying ‘Oh, you need to go out for football.’ And the coaches tried too. But I’d say it was my friends who really made the difference between playing and not playing.”
There was obviously a learning curve for Gordeuk when he first started playing football, but he eventually became an impact player for the Little Lions. This didn’t surprise his mother.
“Just the fact that he was such a terrific athlete and had such a good work ethic, pretty soon he was starting,” Diane said. “He’s still learning about the game, he’s not as tuned in as the kids who have been playing since they were four-years-old, but he’s such a good athlete.”
But Gordeuk said Grissinger took him under his wing and said the coach taught him so much about football while he was in high school and helped him turn into a potential Division I lineman.
With his high school career coming to a close, Gordeuk had a decision to make on a college, and though he didn’t have an offer from the school to play football, he chose Navy. Then, just days after he decided he was going to Navy, he got offered a spot on the school’s football team.
After a few months, Gordeuk, who is on Navy’s practice squad this season, said he’s happy with his college decision.
“The reason I came to Navy was because of the school as a whole,” Gordeuk said. “It wasn’t just for football, it wasn’t just for academics, it was because everything worked out. Everything made sense, it’s a great football program and a great school.”