Better Know A Badger: Gio Paez
Wisconsin's 2019 signing class will be moving up to Madison in June, so BadgerBlitz.com reached out to the newest members of the UW roster to get their thoughts as they prepare to start their college careers.
Gio Paez, a three-star defensive end from Charlotte, N.C., spoke with BadgerBlitz.com about how he is preparing to hit the ground running with the Badgers when he gets on campus this summer.
Miss an interview? Catch up here:
I know it's been a while since you were able to make your commitment official - now that you're just a few weeks away from joining the Badgers, what are you looking forward to the most at this point?
Gio Paez: At my high school there have been a lot of college athletes who have been talking to me about their transition from our defensive schemes and stuff like that, so I want to see how that transition is (for me) going in to that 3-4 defense and just kind of duelling it out, transitioning from a 4-2-5 to the 3-4 and kind of just seeing how different that is.
Has the coaching staff talked with you much about what position they're going to start you out at when you get on campus?
Gio Paez: They see me playing the 4i position, the defensive end.
Is that going to be much of a change from what you've done in high school?
Gio Paez: I played a 3-technique, which is kind of like a strong side defensive end in the 4-2-5, but it’s playing the same gap so not necessarily too different.
So you must be jonesing to get your hands on the playbook and start learning this stuff, right?
Gio Paez: I’m actually already in the playbook. I called up coach Brian Zdebski - he’s a defensive quality control coach - he got me in to the playbook and I made a quizlet of all the stunts and the coverages for the defensive linemen so I’ve been studying that pretty heavily.
So you're trying to hit the ground running for fall camp and summer workouts?
Gio Paez: Absolutely. I don’t want to give them a reason to have to redshirt me.
Is that your goal for your first year - to just get on the field any way you can?
Gio Paez: Whether it’s a big role or a small role, I’m going to go out and make the most production for my team when I can.
What was it that stood out to you about Wisconsin at the end of the day? What made you want to be a Badger?
Gio Paez: They breed NFL linemen, no doubt. That stood out to me significantly. I felt the location in Madison … not only athletically but academically they offer a lot of great things and I see a lot of successful people come out of there, so that stood out to me. The vibe of the people out there is just different too.
Do you remember how it was that the Badgers got on your radar - or how you got on theirs?
Gio Paez: I actually met them because one of my teammates at the time was committed to them then - Nolan Groulx. My coach pulled me in to meet with schools he felt would be a good fit for me. I happened to be with the coaches in the room when Coach Settle was visiting with Nolan, and they just started gassing me up, I guess.
Did you enjoy being recruited? Or was it just one more thing to have to juggle between school and playing football?
Gio Paez: I don’t know, I kind of have an unpopular opinion about recruiting. I understand it’s a business. I understand that these coaches have their families on the line so they want to bring in people they can trust that they are going to produce. So when I see kids posting about all these visits and, "Oh they have a new top five" … I was never in to that stuff. It was too much publicity.
Too flashy for you?
Gio Paez: Yeah, I’m not about that.
So Wisconsin's relative "lack of flash" probably was just right up your alley.
Gio Paez: Exactly. They get it out in the mud up there.
What did you take away from playing high school football that you think you can apply to the college game to smooth the transition a bit?
Gio Paez: I think everyone has a starting point from where they’re coming in. So with us coming in as freshmen … I started with football my sophomore year, so I saw my game elevate as I put in the time. That’s kind of uplifting because I know the work that you put in adds up over time. That’s why I know some people will transfer if they don’t play right away, but if you stick with the process it will come to you.
Is there anyone right now playing your position who you really look up to right now?
Gio Paez: So I follow this Instagram page called D-line vids so I can save all these moves that I like and I can kind of go back to them. But Ndamukong Suh - he’s an animal. Obviously Aaron Donald. Coach (Breckterfield) talks a lot about him because he used to coach him at Pitt. Those are the two big ones.
Football is a tough game to play that requires a lot out of you - what gets you out of bed in the morning to keep grinding to try and get better?
Gio Paez: One thing that kind of stood out to me - I was on an unofficial visit to Kentucky when they told me this in the meeting room. The work that you put in for the next four years is going to really dictate the rest your life. I truly believe that. If I suck it up for four years hopefully I’ll be living a pretty nice one in five.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.