Friday, September 28, 2012

Former Ohio State Buckeyes receiver Anthony Gonzalez moves from NFL to grad school

Anthony Gonzalez made a lot of big catches at Ohio State but is best remembered for making this leaping catch of a Troy Smith pass at Michigan in 2005 that set up the game-winning touchdown.

By Doug Lesmerises, The Plain Dealer

September 27, 2012

Columbus -- The application for the Stanford Graduate School of Business, from an accomplished 2006 Ohio State graduate, didn't include a lot of relevant work experience. There was some activity with his profession's labor group and a charity with which he'd become involved.

Other than that, there was just that one job -- professional football player.

Throw in his status as a first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts and Academic All-American at Ohio State; that helicoptering, game-saving catch against Michigan in 2005 and the national championship game in 2006; and the idea that, if needed, Peyton Manning could be a reference, and Anthony Gonzalez got in.

And now he's no longer a football player.

The former St. Ignatius and Ohio State star began classes at Stanford last week, turning 28 on the second day of class. After two solid years with the Colts in 2007 and '08 and three years since battling injuries, Gonzalez is content to move on from football.

"One hundred million percent, no doubt," Gonzalez said Wednesday during a phone interview with The Plain Dealer from Northern California.

After catching 94 passes for 1,240 yards his first two years in the league, a litany of injuries -- both knees, ankle, back -- limited him to 11 games and just five catches between 2009 and '11. He signed with the New England Patriots in the off-season, but after a virus, wisdom teeth surgery and a scheduled second sports hernia surgery after there were complications from the first, the Patriots released Gonzalez in May. Gonzalez had already laid the groundwork at Stanford, and he took that as a sign.

"I'm actually happy they released me," Gonzalez said. "My body definitely was and still is telling me you shouldn't be playing professional sports right now."

He still trained and thought about going to preseason training camp, but no teams called for a while. When one did at the end of the preseason, Gonzalez said no.

"That was a big moment," Gonzalez said, "and honestly, there was a huge overwhelming sense of relief. I finally made the decision. Deep down it's what I really wanted, but it was still really difficult to do."

So now he's in the two-year business program, thinking he'd some day like to open his own business. The possibilities in Silicon Valley excite him, but he's also just enjoying life as an anonymous student. As he meets new people, they ask and he explains his background. And he finds they don't care much.

"The people here are so accomplished and so humble, it's not that big a deal," Gonzalez said. "I tell people and they say, 'That's interesting.' But I don't think I have one of the most interesting backgrounds I've heard."

Neil Cornrich, the Beachwood-based agent for Gonzalez, said another team could call later in the season, and he thinks there's a chance his client could reconsider. But he's also not surprised at this path.

"All the successes he's had, academically and in football, he has a chance to surpass by going into the world of business," Cornrich said.

Six years after he caught 51 passes, including eight touchdowns, during Ohio State's 2006 season, Gonzalez is back in class and out of the game. His body, his head and his heart are telling him he's in the right place.

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