Junior Alex Gellerstedt (Dublin, Ohio) arrived at Virginia last summer after graduating from Penn State. The offensive tackle suffered a season-ending injury in preseason camp before he was able to appear in a game for the Cavaliers. He recovered from his injury enough to be able to start rehabbing later during the 2019 season and is poised to bolster a seasoned offensive line corps in 2020.
Q: You missed 2019 with an injury and were on the eve of your first spring practice at Virginia when all sports-related and on-Grounds activities were canceled, while classes were moved to online. What where your initial thoughts when you found out you would not get a chance to get back on the field with your teammates this spring?
Gellerstedt: I was obviously very disappointed by losing the opportunity to compete on the field with my teammates this spring, however I certainly understood the need to cancel spring ball.
Q: You didn’t get to play in 2019 because of the injury, but the season lasted long enough with the ACC Championship game appearance and the Orange Bowl that you were able to start getting work in during practice. How beneficial was that extra time to you entering 2020?
Gellerstedt: I think that the few weeks when I could start working my techniques and fundamentals with coach [Garett] Tujague were extremely beneficial. Having the opportunity to get some direct football work in was very important for me coming into this upcoming season.
Q: What benefits did you gain during the 2019 season from a cerebral point of view that you don’t think you would have received if you were able to play and how will that make you better on the field in 2020?
Gellerstedt: I think that I had a unique opportunity to help out younger players that I wouldn’t have had if I had been able to play this past season. I was able to focus on trying to help the team in small ways wherever I could.
Q: How have you gotten work in during the quarantine? Do you have any unique ways to work on your strength training or offensive line drills?
Gellerstedt: I have access to a good amount of essential equipment when it comes to weightlifting which has been great, so I haven’t had to get much more creative than I would in a normal situation. In terms of offensive line drills, Coach Tujague has done an amazing job of sending us work that we can do on our own. I think that taking the time out to focus on precise techniques will pay dividends for us as a position group this fall.
Q: What has this experience been like for you?
Gellerstedt: Being a part of this team has been more than I ever could have hoped for coming in as a transfer player. While it was very disappointing to have missed out on this past season, I think that my time away from playing gave me a new prospective that will have me prepared for a great year this upcoming season.
Q: What is your routine like at this time? Walk us through a normal day.
Gellerstedt: On a typical day I usually wake up three hours before my first class, usually around 8 a.m. I then eat some oatmeal and maybe some eggs before heading into my garage to do the day’s lift. After I finish lifting, I either get some speed and agility work in, or some offensive line drills in. After that I attend my online classes over Zoom from usually 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Once classes are finished for the day, I make dinner for my family, since I’m a pretty good cook. After that I usually work on assignments until Zoom position meetings at 9. Once meetings are over, I usually spend time with my family watching a movie or something. That’s pretty much a normal day form me during this quarantine.
Q: How do you create a routine while being at home?
Gellerstedt: It’s been fairly easy since most people in my grad program attend class during the normal class time, as opposed to watching the recording later. I just always attend class at the normal time as if I were at UVA, and get my workout in beforehand just like I normally would.
Q: How do you stay motivated to train on your own?
Gellerstedt: I think the main thing that keeps me motivated training on my own is thinking of all of the potential this team has this year. Thinking of the upcoming season keeps me motivated to train as hard as I can. Another thing that I sometimes do is play some of Coach Griz’s [Shawn Griswold] favorite songs while I’m lifting to give me the feeling that I’m lifting in McCue [Center] with my teammates.
Q: As a graduate student, how has your program maybe differed online since you are not taking as many classes as an under-grad compared to the fall?
Gellerstedt: As a graduate student I have a fair bit more work than I did as an undergraduate. Even though there are a lower number of credits at one time the workload for each class is much more than a typical undergraduate class would be.
Q: What has the offensive line’s camaraderie been like now that you are all at home? Any Zoom calls?
Gellerstedt: It certainly hasn’t been the same as when we are on Grounds, but we are doing everything we can to stay connected. We have a Zoom call every night during the week which has been great and we also are texting each other constantly in our group chat. I think that we are doing a great job of staying connected considering everything that is going on.
Q: Do you have a go-to Zoom background?
Gellerstedt: I haven’t really been using the Zoom background I usually just go with whatever is behind me [laughs]. The backgrounds can be a bit of a distraction for other people, especially in class so I try not to play into that.
Q: Have you been binge-watching any shows or movies, if so – what has been your favorite?
Gellerstedt: I’ve certainly had more time to watch tv than I usually would. I’m currently binging all of the Fast and Furious movies with my younger brother. He’s big into cars and those movies so it’s been fun to be able to watch them with him.
Q: How has this impacted your hometown of Columbus, Ohio?
Gellerstedt: Things in Columbus have completely ground to a halt, as with most of the rest of the country. This pandemic is especially tough on local businesses, so I have been trying to support some of my favorites when I can.
Q: As an offensive lineman, what is more rewarding? Blocking for a rushing touchdown or a passing touchdown?
Gellerstedt: Its definitely great as an offensive lineman when you can contribute to a touchdown on the ground or through the air. Obviously in terms of what is more rewarding it depends on the situation, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be blocking for a rushing touchdown. When as an offensive line you can impose your will rushing the ball down the field for a touchdown, that may be one of the best feelings as an offensive lineman.
Q: Do you have a message you would like to share with UVA fans during this time?
Gellerstedt: I would just like to say thank you to everyone for being supportive of us all year round. I’d also ask everyone to keep doing a great job of social distancing and helping out those in our communities who need help.
Q: One word to describe your offensive line coach, Garett Tujague.
Gellerstedt: Here are two, Extreme Passion. It applies to football in terms of the physical nature of it, as well as the little details that make all of the difference. It also applies to his investment in all of us as people. He really cares about everything going on in our lives and does an amazing job of making us feel like family.
Q: To close, now that you are at home, what has been your go-to meal?
Gellerstedt: My go to meal at home has probably chicken and pasta, it’s really easy to make and you can make enough of it to last a few days. Chicken and pasta is also great fuel or recovery for workouts during the week so I have been having that meal a lot.
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