College News & Analysis

Oronde Gadsden II has sights set on continuing NFL receiving legacy

• Syracuse wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II sits down for an exclusive interview with PFF. 

• One of the best receivers in the ACC: Gadsden was recently named to PFF’s pre-season All-ACC first-team.

• Battle-tested: As a freshman in high school, Gadsden faced Patrick Surtain II and Tyson Campbell every day in practice.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Oronde Gadsden II takes after his father in a couple of ways. 

The first one is obvious: They share the same name. 

The second is that they’re both successful wide receivers. Oronde Gadsden Sr. spent six seasons with the Miami Dolphins, recording 22 touchdown catches, including Dan Marino’s final touchdown pass. Oronde Gadsden II is coming off a dominant sophomore year at Syracuse and was recently named a pre-season PFF first-team All-ACC honoree. Gadsden was able to learn what it takes from not only his father, but also from some all-time great receivers.

“I never felt any pressure to live up to his name,” he said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “He helped me a lot growing up, meeting different people, learning different things. He’s given me hands-on coaching from age 5 until now. Now, he’s really helping me out with the mental stuff. I was able to talk to and learn from Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens. I was able to work out with people that were better and older than me.” 

Working with older, elite players didn’t just happen when Gadsden was around his dad’s colleagues. It also occurred during his freshman year at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida. Every practice that season, he lined up against Patrick Surtain II and Tyson Campbell both seniors at the time and now two of the NFL’s 10 highest-graded cornerbacks in 2022. 

“Every day was tough,” Gadsden said. “Tuesday through Thursday were like games for me. Some days, I’d get jammed all the way out of bounds and wouldn’t catch a single pass on them. It didn’t matter what side you went on, you couldn’t get away from them.”

Eventually, the 14-year-old receiver started making plays against the five-star seniors in practice, which helped build his confidence.

“Any time I did make a play on them, it’d be a big thing for me,” Gadsden said. “If I was able to make plays on them, I’d be able to make plays on a lot of other people, too. Anybody that can make a play on them was pretty good.”

Gadsden was a three-star recruit in the 2021 class, with offers from programs such as Penn State, Kentucky and Baylor. Ultimately, he decided on Syracuse due to the relationships he built — and some self-scouting on his own end.

“I was looking at all the offers I had, who was recruiting me the hardest,” Gadsden said. “Coach [Nick] Monroe was talking to me and my family every other day. We all really liked them. Then, I did my own digging into them. I saw that Taj Harris was heading into his senior year. He had three seasons with like 600 yards. So I figured after he leaves, I can take his spot and do the same thing.”

Gadsden didn’t just match Harris’ numbers; he surpassed them. As a sophomore this past season, he was named to PFF’s All-ACC second-team after posting 966 receiving yards and six touchdowns. However, it’s the passes he didn’t catch that keep him up at night.

“I’ve got really good hands,” Gadsden said. “I want to pride myself on catching every ball. [PFF] had me with four drops last year. I want to get that number down to zero.”

While Gadsden’s on-field production has never been in question, his true position has. Syracuse’s website lists him as a tight end, whereas the PFF database has him as a wide receiver since he has spent most of his snaps lined up in the slot or out wide.

Oronde Gadsden II’s snaps by alignment in 2022
Alignment Snap count Percentage of total snaps
Slot 512 68%
Wide 159 21%
Inline 85 11%

Gadsden’s preferred position is the one that helps lead his team to victory.

“It doesn’t really matter what the people want to call me,” he said. “It’s just whatever the team needs out of me. If at the next level, they need me to gain some extra pounds to play tight end, I can do that. If they want me to lose some weight to play wide receiver, that’s fine too. Last year, it was a week-to-week thing. I’d have to lose or gain five pounds in a week based on where I was playing.”

With his positional versatility, it only makes sense that Gadsden takes notes from both wide receivers and tight ends currently in the NFL.

“I like the guys who can create space,” he said. “Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Cooper Kupp, Evan Engram, Darren Waller, Travis Kelce. I want to be able to create space, catch the ball and get upfield.”

Gadsden is focused on joining those players in the league next season. In fact, his Twitter header is the NFL draft stage, a daily reminder of his main goal.

“I’ve had that since high school,” Gadsden said of his header. “It’s somewhere I want to be, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. The draft’s in Detroit this year. I’d like to go up there, shake Roger Goodell’s hand, get my own jersey up there and be a first-round pick.”

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