Thursday, September 26, 2019

A new field: Ex-Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez settling in to life as U.S. Congressman

Tom Schad, USA TODAY
Published 3:29 p.m. ET Sept. 25, 2019 | Updated 6:11 p.m. ET Sept. 25, 2019

WASHINGTON — Anthony Gonzalez was back on the football field Tuesday night, running slant routes and even catching a touchdown pass.
"Physically, I feel awful," he said with a smile. "I think it shows."
Gonzalez didn't attend any of the practices for this year's Congressional Football Game for Charity, in which members of Congress and a handful of ex-NFL players faced off against U.S. Capitol Police officers at Gallaudet University. But he obviously didn't need much practice.
Before he was Rep. Gonzalez, R-Ohio, he was a wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts, catching passes from Peyton Manning.
"(I'm a) Congressman who used to play football," Gonzalez said, when asked about how he perceives himself today. "It’s now been well (over) seven years since I was on an NFL roster. I left the game in 2012. A lot has happened in my life since then."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning talks with WR Anthony Gonzalez, right, before their game against the New England Patriots (Sunday, December 4, 2011, afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough MA). Matt Kryger / The Star
 A first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2007, Gonzalez was a slot receiver for Indianapolis during the final years of coach Tony Dungy's tenure. He played in 40 NFL games over five seasons, all for the Colts, and finished with 99 career catches for 1,307 yards. In his most productive year, 2008, he actually finished third on the team in receiving yards — just behind tight end Dallas Clark and slightly ahead of wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
But after diminishing playing time, injuries and a brief tryout with the New England Patriots, Gonzalez retired in the spring of 2012 and immediately enrolled at Stanford, where he earned his MBA. His focus then shifted to politics, which led him to run for the House seat in Ohio's 16th Congressional District last November — and win it with 56.7% of the vote.
Gonzalez, 35, said both roles — NFL player and U.S. Congressman — have proven to be difficult, albeit in different ways.
"The NFL is great because you feel like you can control more of the outcome. ... Congress isn't like that at all," he said with a laugh. "Congress is more if you’re in the majority, and you have the votes, and this, that and the other, that’s ultimately going to win the day on the House floor. So that’s just different. But both are interesting."
Gonzalez — who received campaign contributions last fall from Manning and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, among others — now represents a swath of Ohio that spans from the western suburbs of Cleveland to areas both east and west of Akron. And though he played for the Colts, the Ohio native said he remains a "rabid" Browns fan.
While Gonzalez considers himself to be "happily retired" from football, Tuesday's event gave him a chance to relive his past career. He was a go-to target on a team of Congresspeople and NFL veterans that also featured former Pro Bowl wideout Gary Clark and longtime Denver Broncos defensive back Ray Crockett, among others. The event raised money for a trio of nonprofit organizations, including The Capitol Police Memorial Fund.
In an event that married politics and sports, Gonzalez was eventually asked if he would field a political question.
"Nope," Gonzalez said. "Not today."
And with that, he jogged back to rejoin his team — happy to be a football player again, if only for one night.
Contact Tom Schad at or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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