Ohio State junior Anthony Gonzalez is a wide receiver with an even wider view of life, a complex package equipped for two worlds — 4.3 speed and a near-4.0 grade point average.
Gonzalez studies, reads and sleeps in a 6-by-6-by-8-foot climate-controlled plastic tent in his room that set his folks back $5,000 and gives his body the sense that he is living at 8,000 feet, tricking it into producing more red blood cells so as to increase endurance and shorten recovery time, a method practiced by athletes such as Lance Armstrong.
He is majoring in philosophy and dreams of returning to his grandparents’ home in Cuba, using the law degree to which he aspires (he has targeted the Stanford law school). He’d like to help cut through some of the political red tape surrounding that nation in the post-Castro era before entering into legal work for the poor and perhaps a spot in the NFL Players’ Association hierarchy.
And if there were more hours in the day, Gonzalez probably would not spend them just chillin’, either.
“My approach is a little different,” Gonzalez said at media day for the BCS championship game Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“You always hear you are a student first and an athlete second. I think that you are fully a student and fully an athlete. I want to immerse myself in both. To me, that’s part of the challenge and part of the fun.”
Gonzalez, a junior who has asked the NFL to evaluate his chances in the 2007 draft with an eye toward leaving school this spring, has made football look like a full-time gig this season, his first as a regular.
He has 49 receptions for 723 yards and eight touchdowns, and it does not get more go-to than this — of those 49 catches, 43 have given Ohio State first downs, including 13 of his last 14 receptions.
“He takes my breath away. He takes us to another level,” senior quarterback Troy Smith said.
Gonzalez can draw inspiration for his full life in his family, which was forced to leave Cuba in 1961, when, as Gonzalez tells it, his grandfather José was placed on new leader Fidel Castro’s hit list.
“Someone high up in the Castro administration tipped my grandfather off that they were going to come after him and kill him,” Gonzalez said.
The family landed in Miami – Gonzalez’s father, Eduardo, still has the plane ticket – before later settling in Cincinnati, which José and his wife had visited during their honeymoon. Eduardo, who was 8 when he came to the U.S., raised his family near Cleveland.
Gonzalez’s grandmother, Dorcas, just wrote a memoir detailing the turbulent times, and the family’s sacrifices are not something Gonzalez glosses over.
“I’m a product of them. I’m here because of them. They’ve gone through a lot of struggle, and they still found a way to make it all work,” Gonzalez said. “It’s hard to say if I could have done that, or if anyone could have.
“The fact that they’ve made the American success story, a rags to riches story. It’s something I aspire to.”
When Gonzalez determined that he wanted to be a lawyer, he sought the advice of his grandfather, a lawyer in Cuba until the revolution that brought Castro to power in 1959.
José Gonzalez suggested majoring in English or philosophy, and Gonzalez was hooked after his first philosophy class. He is taking two more philosophy classes this semester. Some of his course reading, of course, is done in the chamber that keeps his body footballready.
“If it were easy, you wouldn’t be so sought after it was over,” Gonzalez said.
“It is difficult. You just have to find a way to get it done.”