During the off season, Southern’s newest wide receiver Luke Gadson is on the field with NFL players.
Working for his former football coach, Don Bosco Prep High School in New Jersey, Gadson shoots video and posts to social media—and even occasionally gets to train with the professionals.
That coach, Drew Lieberman, is now a private coach and social media influencer whose clients include NFL players.
Lieberman (@coachliebs) has about 15 to 20 clients in the league, among them trained NFL wide receivers and tight ends such as Mohamed Sanu, free agent, Darius Slayton of the NY Giants and Evan Engram of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I would go back home and upload the videos to the computer and then edit them,” Gadson says. “My coach would send it back to whatever NFL player he is training so they can see what they were working on.”
Gadson, a junior communication major and transfer student from West Virginia State University, will play with the Owls in the fall.
“I was looking for a better football program to get into with better coaching and better team environment,” Gadson says. “I entered the (NCAA transfer) portal, and Southern was one of the first schools to reach out to me.”
Previously, he has been in different parts of the country for school and football. This includes Atlanta, where he most recently worked with Lieberman, and where he plans to return this summer.
Gadson is in charge of making TikTok and Instagram videos of the NFL players’ training sessions.
Another part of his job is to edit reels of defensive plays that the wide receivers and tight ends will face.
“My coach would send those clips back to the players so they can have film sessions,” Gadson says. “I help all over the place.”
Lieberman says he places Gadson in a lot of roles.
“I put him in a lot of odd situations, and he’s always done a good job with it,” Lieberman says. “Whether it’s beating traffic and getting us somewhere on time or getting some task done.”
Gadson says he even gets to train with the wide receivers and has learned a few things from them, like how to release from the line of scrimmage faster and route running skills.
The job has taken Gadson overseas, as well. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lieberman took Gadson to Europe to film professional football games.
“It was an amazing experience,” Gadson says. “We went to Vienna, Austria, and we worked with the Vienna Vikings, which is a professional program. We then took a tour in Slovakia because my coach had a large social media following, and he gained some European followers as well.”
Gadson says he did not expect to see so much love for football in Europe. He says the U.S. enjoys football, and it’s the same in Europe.
Since Gadson’s junior year in high school, Lieberman’s social media following has grown from 10,000 followers to 100,000 today, Gadson says.
Gadson, a tight end turned wide receiver, has always had a close relationship with Lieberman.
“He is a big role model for me,” Gadson says. “He has been in my life since I was a junior, and he is like a brother to me.”
Lieberman says Gadson was one of the most hardworking players he coached.
“Luke was the most reliable guy,” Lieberman says. “He would lead by example and be that guy that does everything right.”
Now that Gadson is playing college football, he still sends clips of himself to Lieberman for feedback and criticism.
“He’ll coach me up and send me paragraphs and paragraphs of critiques,” Gadson says. “Even if I felt like the rep was really good, it’s a thousand things that I can get better at.”
Lieberman has been like this since high school and would be encouraging with all his players, Gadson says.
“You can tell that he cared for us,” Gadson recalls. “Whether or not we played football, he would care for us.”
Gadson noted that Lieberman would even invite former players he coached at the high school level to train during the summer.
“He used to coach Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., and he would let one of his players move in with him due to his situation,” Gadson says.
Lieberman wanted to be more than just a coach, Gadson says. He wanted to be an outlet for his players to talk to him about anything.
“He was just a great coach overall,” Gadson says. “He would take clips of NFL receivers and call them ‘Teach Tapes.’”
These tapes would help Gadson, and other high school players learn different wide receiver techniques.
Gadson says he appreciated how Lieberman emphasized to him and his teammates never to become complacent. He hopes to bring that attitude to the Owls when he starts playing next semester.
Some of the Owls wide receivers and coaches have already interacted with Gadson before the season starts in the fall.
Head Coach Tom Godek says Gadson has shown some maturity because he has been around college athletics for a long time.
“He has good route running skills, and he understands what we are trying to do so far. There is still a lot of learning to do, and that is why spring practice is important to any of our players,” Godek says.
Spring training helps students understand the purpose of each play, and Gadson has been absorbing that every day, Godek says.
“You can tell he loves football a lot,” Wide Receiver Coach Devante Jenkins says. “Everything he does so far, he’s put 110% into it.”
Jenkins says Gadson’s speed and physicality will help the Owls this season.
Wide receiver Tylon Papallo, a senior, says that when he and Gadson first met during a position meeting, he could tell Gadson had a strong work ethic.
“He has good hands,” Papallo says.
“He is going to be a good receiver for us on third down.”
Wide receiver Tarik Hetmyer, a freshman, says Gadson is a nice guy who is ready to help the team win.
Gadson hopes his route running skills and his desire to win will help the Owls in the upcoming season, but he also brings the valuable skills that he learned from Lieberman.
“Legacy is huge to him,” Gadson says. “I want to leave a legacy at Southern.”
By Jaylen Carr