|Colts' Gonzalez has been serious athlete all his life|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 May 2007 22:01|
Yes, all of his kids were successful, passionate and good students who embraced the games they played. But Anthony Gonzalez had an extra intangible.
``I'm proud of all my kids, but he always had this dedication to the sport to get to this level, a dedication the others didn't have,'' Eduardo Gonzalez said.
It's one of the traits that tempted the Indianapolis Colts to defy conventional wisdom and make the Ohio State receiver their first-round pick in last week's NFL draft.
Gonzalez is smallish by NFL standards at 6 feet and 193 pounds, but model size for the Colts' game plan.
At 6 feet and 185 pounds, Marvin Harrison has made eight consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and owns all of the Colts' major receiving records. At 6 feet, 198 pounds, Reggie Wayne earned his first Pro Bowl trip last season while emerging as one of the league's best No. 2 receivers. At 5-11, 187 pounds, Brandon Stokley proved a reliable third option for Peyton Manning.
Together in 2004, they became the first receiving trio in NFL history to each top 1,000 yards and catch at least 10 touchdowns in the same season.
Stokley's departure after last year's Super Bowl victory left an opening for Gonzalez, who's expected to fill the void. His family thinks he's a perfect fit.
``I loved to see him go there,'' said Gonzalez's older brother, Joe, a former starting safety at Indiana. ``It's a great organization, and I think they're led by the best coach in the NFL. They have the best offense, he can learn from Peyton Manning and he's playing with a team that just won the Super Bowl. It worked out fantastic.''
Forget the platitudes. Anthony Gonzalez is ready to work.
He arrived Friday at the Colts' rookie mini-camp with the same goals he took to Ohio State: Win championships, be a good teammate and thrive in the role he's assigned.
During Sunday's introductory news conference, Gonzalez promised to do all of those things and more by studying and watching film.
It's a line that could have come from Manning, the Super Bowl MVP and the NFL's top pupil.
The harder part is proving it.
``I think the first practice sobers you up a little bit,'' the rookie said. ``It's exciting to be here, it's something I've wanted to do my whole life.''
Gonzalez has taken his passions further than most players.
He enjoys cooking and embraces the Cuban roots planted by his grandparents, who fled to the United States after Fidel Castro's takeover.
Football is no different.
After hearing Lance Armstrong attribute part of his success to using an altitude tent, Gonzalez asked doctors at Ohio State about having one installed in his room for $5,000. When he asked dad for the money, Eduardo Gonzalez balked.
``He called me up and said, `I want to do this,' `` his father said. ``I said, `Are you crazy? Let me talk to the head medical physician.' When I did, he told me there was no scientific proof that it worked or that it didn't, but that it wasn't going to hurt him. Anthony figured if it worked for Lance, maybe it could work for him.''
It was all the family needed to hear.
During last summer's workouts in Columbus, Ohio, Anthony Gonzalez said he never got sore.
Eventually, his good health allowed him to become productive enough on a talent-laden team to emerge as a first-round prospect.
But it was Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's glowing evaluation that sold the Colts.
``I saw coach Tressel at a banquet and he mentioned that Anthony was a guy who will leave no stone unturned,'' Dungy said. ``That was an interesting piece to his puzzle. He told me what he meant to their team.''
Now Gonzalez finds himself in very much the same situation he did at Ohio State - playing behind two established receivers, with a superstar quarterback and on a proficient offense.
``I think it's perfect for every possible reason,'' Gonzalez said. ``If I had been recruited and had the chance to pick a team, this is the one I would have picked. I'm excited to have an opportunity to do the things Brandon did.''
It's always been this way for Gonzalez - the overshadowed overachiever.
Way back when the two oldest Gonzalez boys, Nick and Joe, thought Anthony was too young to play in their baseball and football games, Anthony watched quietly and learned what it took to excel even if his brothers refused to count his scores.
Years later, those lessons and that passion have given Gonzalez the biggest reward of his life.
``You know, when I was at Ohio State after the draft and after the minicamps, I'd see guys just kind of hanging around and they didn't really have anywhere to go,'' he said. ``I decided I never wanted to be in that situation, so I dedicated myself to making sure I wasn't.''