Virginia Tech football has a way of appealing to family tradition. There have been countless brothers who have chosen to make a home in Blacksburg from the Vicks to Fullers and the Edmunds, among others.
When tight end Nick Gallo joined the Hokies and followed in the footsteps of his brother Eric, who played center for Virginia Tech from 2014-2017, the two became the 28th set of brothers to play for the Hokies.
“I came down when [Eric] was being recruited by [Frank] Beamer,” Nick Gallo said. “It was probably seven years I’ve been coming here to Tech. Obviously knew the campus well. He would always try to stay neutral. He would never try to push me toward VT, which I always thought was funny. He would give me insight. The coaches were really transparent during the recruiting process. I felt confident coming into Tech that I knew what I was coming for.”
Now in his sophomore season, Gallo has established himself in a prominent role in the offense.
“My brother played here, so I have to give him credit for that,” Gallo said. “He got me prepared well to figure out the playbook as well and kind of give me some tips about focusing on the playbook and locking into what the coaches say. Trying to do that on the field and gain their trust, and once you gain their trust, just go out and give as much effort as you can.”
Eric started 38 games at center for Virginia Tech over his four years, including the last two seasons under Justin Fuente, when he earned All-ACC Honorable Mentions honors in 2017. Meanwhile, the oldest brother of the crew, PJ Gallo, played tight end for Maryland from 2012-2015. The combination of Eric’s prowess blocking and PJ’s receiving has helped Nick be in position to make an impact early in career.
“[PJ] was great in the passing game,” Gallo said. “He would teach me all sorts of things that were really able to help me. I played seven-on-seven in high school, too, which helped me a lot in the passing game. Having Eric, too, obviously helped me. He would help me with all the run game stuff, pass sets, run blocks. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”
While PJ and Eric assisted Nick in building up his skills throughout their childhood and on his journey to Virginia Tech, he’s also had some helping hands in Blacksburg. Dalton Keene and James Mitchell immediately welcomed Gallo to the “T-unit” and showed him the ropes of what it means to be a Hokies’ tight end. Gallo in turn got the chance to learn early on from a third round NFL draft pick and a budding superstar in Virginia Tech’s offense.
“When I first got here, I was so thankful to be behind guys like Dalton and James,” Gallo said. “Trying to absorb as much as I can, not just technique wise and on film with their effort, which is unbelievable, but just how they carried themselves every day to practice and off the field. It was a really great experience to be able to follow in their footsteps.”
Gallo’s skills as a receiver always came naturally to him. The 6-foot-4, 247-pounder quickly learned that if he was going to see playing time, his blocking in the trenches would need to take a step forward.
“If you’re a tight end, you have to do both,” Gallo said. “If you can’t run routes well, they might as well put a receiver in there. If you can’t block well enough, you might as well put another lineman in there. Working with Coach Shibest, all the tight ends, we pride ourselves on doing both. It’s kind of a block first mentality, and then making plays in the passing game is a secondary thing. We can obviously do both.”
Due to a lack of depth at the receiver position and Gallo’s rapid improvement in the running game, Fuente and offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen have been running much of the offense out of the 12 personnel look with two tight ends on the field. The versatility of both Gallo and Mitchell to move around within the offense creates mismatches against opponents.
“Nick is going to continue to become a better player as he continues to develop strength and has a real offseason,” Fuente said. “He’s made large strides in terms of blocking. If you are a tight end and you can’t block, then you’re just a slow wideout. You have to contribute in the running game, and that’s where we start with those guys. He’s going to continue to get better. He also has pass catching skills. James gets a lot of the attention and rightfully so, but I think as he goes through his career, he’s going to continue to be a weapon as well in the passing game.”
So far in the passing game, Gallo has hauled in five catches for 44 yards. He had a career-high three receptions for 21 yards in Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest.
The Hokies will be looking to put that loss behind them and bounce back on the road at Louisville this Saturday. The offense will need to reassert itself on the ground and work the passing game off of it. You can imagine Mitchell and Gallo will be lined up all over the field to make things difficult on the Cardinals’ defense.
“We stress about 1-0 all the time,” Gallo said. “Coach Fuente brought it up [in a way] that I had never really thought about. [With] 1-0, I always thought about it, don’t look too far in the future. He would say 1-0 is also not looking too far behind you. We’re just trying to get back on track this week and go 1-0.”