MOSCOW, Idaho – Sophomore tight end Joe Wysocki introduced himself to Idaho’s offense against UNLV last week with a 53-yard catch.
He could go on to equal the combined production of last season’s stellar tight ends Deon Watson and Trent Cowan – 89 catches for 1,242 yards and nine touchdowns – and for marine-challenged Vandals fans on the Palouse the coolest thing about him could still be what he did in high school.
Wysocki, of Seal Beach, California, competed on the Los Alamitos High School surfing team.
“Golf team, surf team, football,” he said, smiling at the incongruity of his athletic pursuits.
There is no logical point of connection between competing in the ocean or on the field, he added. “Surfing is all about style, being smooth,” he said. “Playing football is kind of different, violent.”
Nor is he an emissary from a different world, introducing the Vandals to the laid-back refinements of catching and riding a wave. According to his quarterback, Matt Linehan, Wysocki is a “really tough-nosed blue-collar tight end. He’s an old-school type of guy, a great blocker.”
If he plays more like Mike Ditka, coming out of a Pennsylvania steel town, than Laird Hamilton riding the North Shore big waves, it’s because Wysocki is well grounded in football. He might have grown up a short walk from the beach, but he has played football his whole life. His older brother, Ben, played at UCLA and at Utah State as a graduate student.
“He taught me toughness,” Wysocki said.
Vandals coach Paul Petrino, in preseason camp, pointed to Wysocki’s contribution to Idaho’s running game as a blocker.
Watson and Cowan were blue-chip components of Idaho’s passing game last year,. After Wysocki’s first career catch against the Rebels, Petrino said, “It helps the offense a lot if he can start making plays for us.”
Wysocki found himself yards from any defender when he got behind a safety at midfield at the end of the third quarter against UNLV. The magnitude of how open Wysocki found himself was surprising. He couldn’t have been more open if he and Linehan were warming up before the game on an empty field.
“I definitely did not understand it,” Wysocki said.
But he gathered in Linehan’s pass and turned and raced to the 5-yard line, where he was knocked out of bounds. Three plays later, Linehan hit Reuben Mwehla for Idaho’s second touchdown.
“We need him in the passing game,” Linehan said. “Joe’s making strides. I had great chemistry with Trent and Deon. Joe is getting more comfortable with our offense and with running his routes.”
While Wysocki, to this point, is primarily a blocking tight end, he said Petrino used a vintage basketball analogy to explain his role in Idaho’s passing game.
“He says I should be like Steve Kerr,” Wysocki said.
Presumably, Petrino did not mean Wysocki should develop a chronic back condition and become a coach. On the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Chicago Bulls championship NBA teams, Kerr was never the first option on offense, but he was always a good one, a deadly shooter.
“Catch the ball when it comes to me,” Wysocki said.
“I know I’m not going to get the ball a bunch, but I want to win for this team.”
Wysocki is one of three Vandals from Los Alamitos High. He is joined by sophomore safety Denzal Brantley and sophomore offensive lineman Sean Tulette. It helps having high school friends with him at Idaho.
“I do miss being away from the ocean,” Wysocki said. “But I love it here in Moscow. It’s a different lifestyle, but I love the town and the school.”
He received scholarship offers from all three service academies and the University of New Mexico. Near the close of his senior year in high school, Idaho also offered him a ride.
“God brought this blessing into my life,” Wysocki said.
Now he is figuring out how to use it to surf the Palouse, as a blocking and pass-catching tight end.