Rahmir Gosa may only be a freshman at Lincoln High School, but the young freshman has already made his mark.
Well, Gosa has already acquired two nicknames since he’s become a member of the Lions. Gosa, a rookie running back, is known by either “Juggernaut,” or “Meatball.”
“The names have two different meanings,” Gosa said. “I became ‘Meatball’ because I like to eat. I’m a fat kid. I’m short and fat. So I’m like a meatball. I called myself ‘Juggernaut’ and that’s now become ‘Jugger.’”
Needless to say, Gosa is a colorful teenager.
“He’s an interesting character,” says Lincoln head football coach Robert Hampton. “He sometimes gets on your nerves, because he doesn’t know how to stop telling jokes. But he’s not an egomaniac. The kids all love him. Everyone loves him. He’s just a funny guy. I enjoy the kid. He makes practices interesting. He can be a complete knucklehead until it’s time to go.”
Gosa is also one of the smallest guys on the gridiron. He stands about 5-foot-7 — “I’m either 5-foot-5 or 5-foot-7, I’m one of those,” he says – and weighs about 180 pounds.
“I don’t know what I am,” Gosa said. “I’ll check with the doctors the next time I see one.”
So a short, stocky freshman usually doesn’t get a chance to play varsity football right away. Even Gosa knew those rules.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Gosa said. “But if I got the opportunity to play, I’d take it.”
However, in Hampton’s 16-year career as the head coach at his alma mater, he had one running back that played as a freshman, namely Ty Stevens, a three-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree who was the all-time leading rusher in the school’s history when he graduated in 2011.
What made Gosa’s chances even harder was his anonymity – even with budding nicknames on the horizon.
Hampton had no idea who Gosa was before practice was scheduled to begin in September, but a former Lincoln player with an interesting resume recommended Gosa to Hampton.
Tyrik Darby, the 2013-2014 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year out of Lincoln, was Gosa’s coach with Jersey City Recreation.
“Rock Darby is coaching football at Jersey City Rec and he said, ‘As soon as you see him in equipment, you’ll be impressed,’” Hampton said. “I saw the kid and I said, ‘Who is this rolling pin?’ But I could see he was actually very athletic.”
Hampton got to know Gosa and despite his youth, he kept Gosa with the varsity right away.
“I saw that he had the ability to run between the tackles,” Hampton said. “He had the ability to make people miss. It was really hard to hit him and tackle him. He’s very elusive and as strong as hell. He also has a really good football IQ. I thought he had a chance to be pretty good for us.”
When practices began, the Lions’ backfield was extremely crowded, with at least six returning players who carried the ball last year and other newcomers pushing their way to make the final roster.
But Gosa, with his unflappable personality, was totally unfazed.
“Coach Hampton told me that he’d give me an opportunity,” Gosa said. “So I’d take it.”
In the Lions’ first scrimmage, Gosa felt like he belonged.
“The first run, I broke it for about 15 or 20 yards,” Gosa said. “I had butterflies before that run, but after that, I knew I was good enough to play varsity.”
Gosa also realized he belonged.
“I appreciated the love I got from all my teammates,” Gosa said. “I realized then that I was really a Lion. When I first came, I had a few arguments, but this time, they made me feel like I’m really welcomed, like I was one of the pack.”
Gosa remained with the Lions for the entire season, but he saved his best for the last game.
Last Thursday night, when the Lions faced Bayonne in the season finale, Gosa broke out and became a true force to be reckoned with.
Gosa carried the ball 18 times for an astounding 201 yards, scoring two touchdowns in the process and adding two point-after-touchdown runs, leading the Lions to an impressive 44-20 victory over the Bees to finish the season at 5-3.
For his efforts, Gosa has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Hampton knew that Gosa was poised to have a breakout performance.
“We decided we want to run between the tackles against Bayonne,” Hampton said. “So that meant Gosa would get the ball more. He has the ability to make people miss and the ability to run with power. We figured against Bayonne that he would be hard to tackle and we were right.”
With the performance, Gosa became the first freshman running back to ever rush for more than 200 yards in a varsity game.
It’s really a remarkable outing considering that no one really knew who Rahmir Gosa was with all his nicknames two months ago.
“He didn’t even know the plays,” Hampton said. “He was unknown and now he’s our lead dog. We have a lot of equally talented backs, but this was his first breakout game. Now we know what we have.”
Gosa was obviously pleased he got a big opportunity in the final game of the season.
“But in all honesty, Mekiah [Monroe, a senior running back] was back and I thought it was his job,” Gosa said. “I should have been getting 200 yards in games all season. Now they trust me with the ball. I’m getting better opportunities and now this is the result.”
“It sets the tone for us for next year,” Hampton said. “Now the other kids see this and maybe they’ll pick up their game. And we’ll be a better team. He’s an old school running back. He’s not a banger. He’s tough to get your hands on. He’s slippery. He’s a lot like Lydell Mitchell [the New Jersey native who was an All-Pro with the Baltimore Colts in the late 1970s].”
Gosa is the nephew of Mike Burgess, the athletic director at Ferris High School. Even with his uncle’s presence, Gosa wanted to be a Lion
“I’m glad I went to Lincoln,” Gosa said.
Gosa’s personality is certainly one to admire.
“I sometimes play around and make everyone laugh,” Gosa said. “I like to make everyone happy. It’s good to have a happy team.”
And maybe, Gosa could have another nickname by next year. How’s “Go Go” Gosa sound?
“I like it,” Gosa said. “I’ll run with it. Whatever name they say, it will be me.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com