After playing on the junior varsity and freshman football teams in 2019, Lincoln Southeast’s Gunnar Gottula took a major leap on the football field when he started a left tackle for the Knights’ offensive line as as sophomore.
The first-time starter did well, and his film shows it. Well enough, in fact, that Gottula started to garner attention from Division I college programs. He already has an offer from both Iowa State and Kansas State. He’s also been in contact with Northwestern and Nebraska quite a bit, too.
At 6-foot-6, Gottula has prototypical size at the tackle position that coaching staffs are looking for. He said his goal this upcoming fall is to play at around the 265-pound range.
Playing major college football is the goal, Gottula said, so interacting with members of those coaching staffs is an exciting experience.
“It’s pretty cool because the coaches just get to know you really well and talk to you about their plans and stuff like that,” Gottula said.
What helped Gottula along during his sophomore year were his older teammates. Seniors like Derek Branch, Maddox Burton and Barrett France.
“I was able to do it because some of the upperclassmen leaders helped me get ready,” Gottula said. “Those were some leaders that just helped me know what to do and get used to the higher level of play.”
The son of Southeast head coach Ryan Gottula, Gunnar said it’s fun playing for his dad. He joked he’s known the playbook since he was a seventh grader.
“It really helps a lot because when I go home from practice I can talk about it with him and I’ll get better,” Gunnar said.
Gottula’s plan for this summer is to hit the weight room and get stronger, just like he did last year.
“I just want to build up more strength to become dominant in that aspect,” he said. “I’ll also do a lot of agility and sprint work to work on my athleticism.”
Whenever the NCAA’s dead period is lifted, Gottula said he’d like to visit any of the schools he’s been talking to. He said the coaches told him they liked his physicality and that there was an obvious difference in his play from the first game to the last.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” Gottula said. “Throughout the season they noticed I started playing harder and harder.”
Gottula is a three-sport athlete and is on the basketball and track teams. He’ll compete in the throws this spring in track.
Southeast finished last season 8-1 with a quarterfinal appearance in the Class A playoffs. The Knights were knocked out by Elkhorn South, which eventually went on to play for the state title and finished runner-up to Omaha Westside.
Gottula likes what Southeast has coming back in 2021, which includes key pieces like Jake Appleget, Max Buettenback and Teitum Tuioti.
The Knights are returning 3-4 starters on an offensive line that will likely feature Gottula, Owen Anthony, Nate Folmer and Cooper Tracy. That could be the foundation of a bruising, down-hill attack at Southeast.
“What I really like about our group is we should be able to run the football,” Gottula said.