Freshman WR bursts onto OSU scene
Gonzalez's TD catch against Michigan one to remember
By Doug Harris
Cox News Service
SAN ANTONIO Eduardo Gonzalez was a scholarship football player at the University of Michigan and cherished his time in Ann Arbor. But he found himself standing on a patch of concrete in Ohio Stadium last month cheering unashamedly against the Wolverines.
Gonzalez's son, Anthony, a redshirt freshman for Ohio State, had gone from being a seldom-used reserve at the start of the season to one of the team's primary receivers. And slipping behind the Michigan secondary on the opening series, he hauled in a 68-yard touchdown pass just 73 seconds into the game.
As his son crossed the goal line with his arms outstretched in sheer delight, Eduardo Gonzalez became more delirious than the other 105,000 patrons.
"I'm telling you, that's about the closest I've ever come in my life to passing out," he said. "It was so emotional, so intense. My wife did (lose consciousness). I was weak-kneed.
"The whole reason is that kid has been going to the Ohio State-Michigan game since he was 5 years old. I knew how important that was for him. He'd been dreaming about it his whole life. To have your first career touchdown come that way, as a parent, it was just overwhelming."
Eduardo Gonzalez will have to deal with divided loyalties once more tonight when the Buckeyes (7-4) face Oklahoma State (7-4) in the Alamo Bowl.
While Anthony Gonzalez again figures to get plenty of playing time, another son, Joe, a former Indiana defensive back, will be serving as a graduate assistant for the Cowboys.
What's more, Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles and the elder Gonzalez are close friends, having roomed together while playing for the Wolverines in the 1970s.
"I was in his wedding, and he was in mine," said Eduardo Gonzalez, the son of Cuban immigrants. "We just went on a fishing trip together last year."
Asked to describe the coach, Eduardo Gonzalez replied: "He's intense, a very intense competitor."
The same could be said for Anthony Gonzalez.
The 6-foot, 200-pound former Cleveland St. Ignatius High star was a highly touted recruit. But the Buckeyes always have an abundance of gifted receivers, and he had trouble getting noticed.
While the team was going through a mid-season funk, an aggravated Anthony Gonzalez asked for a closed-door meeting with OSU head coach Jim Tressel.
"I said, 'What do you need to see from me so I can get on the field?'" Anthony Gonzalez recalled. "He said, "Step it up in practice. It all starts with practice. We need to see full-speed reps from you all the time."
"So, I made a conscious effort - the best effort I could muster every day - and I guess that paid off."
To his surprise, Anthony Gonzalez was thrown into the fray the next week against Iowa in the opening quarter and made his first career reception. And his role has escalated since then.
He had a 38-yard catch to set up a tying TD in the fourth quarter against Purdue and picked up another 11-yard grab against Michigan.
Although he has just seven receptions, he's averaging a robust 22.3 yards each catch. And his breakaway speed consistently catches opponents by surprise.
He might be as fast as any player on the team, Ted Ginn Jr. included.
Tressel said Anthony Gonzalez "really showed he could add a lot in the big-play (area) and showed he could stretch the field. I'm not sure who's faster than him in the 40. I'm sure there will be arguments about who's faster than whom. But Tony can really put some pressure on a defense."
Anthony Gonzalez admits he doesn't look like much of a burner. With his stocky build and receding hairline, he easily could pass for a coach.
"I'm bald. I'm kind of fat. I don't look very fast at all. But for some reason, I am," he said. "My grandma claims when she was little, they called her The Rabbit. Maybe that's where it comes from."
But Anthony Gonzalez has been forced to go to extreme lengths to maintain his passing gear. Cursed with hamstrings that snap frequently, he has had to hire a massage therapist at his own expense to keep them in working order.
"It hurts really bad," he said of the treatments. "It's one of the most painful things you could ever go through. But it helps - a lot."
Although their sons will be on competing sides, Eduardo and Jenna Gonzalez were thrilled over the Alamo Bowl pairing of the Buckeyes and Cowboys. The family was able to spend Christmas together, attending Mass here and sharing a meal.
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