April 21, 2006
Wide receiver Tony Gonzalez and the Boston College football team will play in the annual Jay McGillis Spring Game at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Alumni Stadium. Last season, Gonzalez caught 28 passes for 414 yards and had a team-leading five touchdown receptions. The Framingham, Mass., resident leads all returning players in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions.
Q: You've been back on the field this spring, getting ready for a season that won't start for about four months. After 14 practices, including two scrimmages, give us a recap of how the team's practices have gone so far.
A: Most of it has been competitive on both sides of the ball. Like any other spring season, it's just about seeing who fits where and who the best players are that can help us win. From what I've seen, there have been a lot of young players who have stepped up. We were not a team that graduated a whole lot of players, but the players who we lost had a lot to do with our program. It's about replacing those players and filling the gaps that have opened up from the departing seniors. This spring has been about a lot of hard work and a lot of competition. That's the main focus that I have seen.
Q: Saturday's Jay McGillis Game will mark your fourth spring game. How do you prepare for such an "exhibition" contest? What do you focus on? Is there any intra-team rivalry involved in the game?
A: We just focus on getting better together - first as individuals, and then as a team. We want to make everything come together. Before spring practice, we were told that this is about individuals and that this is the time of the year where you are fighting for your time. You do have to watch out for the next man. Everyone has been getting better together, whether it's on the field, in the weight room or watching video. It's pretty much offense versus defense. This spring game isn't so much a real game situation, but it's like playing your brother. You always want to beat your brother, and you always have something to fall back on if you win. That's how it is with these guys. There's always a little feud I see between [quarterback] Matt Ryan and [linebacker] Jolonn Dunbar when we're doing offense versus defense or seven-on-seven drills and one-on-ones. They've got their little thing going, and I've got something with some DBs - just some trash talk and stuff like that. It's a battle within a battle, but it's all about friendship afterward.
Q: Talk about the play of and development of quarterback Matt Ryan. He seemed to really hit his stride toward the end of last season.
A: His development was amazing because the kid is just a leader. You really wouldn't expect that - you would at the quarterback position, but not at his age with regard to what he's done so early in his career. I think what he's got going for him is that he's a great leader. However he goes, we go. That's the one thing that I see about him. In the games, he's so poised and calm. The things that he did this spring with this offense, leadership-wise, is just great.
Q: With the departures of wide receivers Will Blackmon and Larry Lester, talk about the team's depth at the receiver position. Which players should fans keep an eye on next fall.
A: Everyone is going to see that we lost Will and Larry, and they were a bulk of our catches at the receiver spot. We're not all that deep - we've got three freshmen coming in - but we've got players who can play. The only problem is that we don't have that much experience. We've got me, Taylor [Sele] and Kevin [Challenger] who have game experience in the ACC. Rich Gunnell has had a great spring, along with Clarence Megwa. The player who I have seen do what he is capable of is Brandon Robinson. He has played tough in all of the scrimmages. He goes for the ball, and he's a great receiver. He is a player who you may have heard of last year, since he had a few catches, but I think he's going to be a receiver this year where people say `wow.' They're going to see things that they haven't yet seen from him.
Q: BC's offense has solid experience at the quarterback and running back position and returns three starting offensive linemen. Give us a quick rundown of the team's offense through this spring's workouts - what's impressed you? Has anything surprised you?
A: Not too much has surprised me. We had three starting linemen come back. I really don't see a great dropoff from the players we lost last year. We're still going to have one of the best offensive lines in the conference, if not the best, in my opinion. The thing that I have been looking for this spring, and even before the spring started, is the competition at the running back spot. We've got L.V. [Whitworth], Andre [Callender] and A.J. [Brooks]. That is just a battle. A.J. has been hurt, so I haven't seen too much of him. But, between L.V. and Andre, they're both running hard and getting done what they need to get done. I look forward to that competition in camp next August.
Q: You played three seasons in the Big East Conference before playing last year in the ACC. What surprised (or impressed) you most about the ACC's style of play?
A: The speed, to me, was the main difference that I saw between the two conferences. West Virginia had the fastest cornerback in the Big East in Pac-Man Jones, and I see more of that week-in and week-out in the ACC with their quickness and how they recover. The Big East was more of a power league. They were really physical - all of them, from the line to the secondary. I really didn't see as much of that in the ACC. I've seen more speed than physicality.
Q: What has been your greatest thrill as a football player at Boston College?
A: On the field, it would have to be the Notre Dame game in 2004. Even before the catch, before I caught that ball and before the game started, I just remember it was raining the whole day. I remember going on the field before the game with Kevin Challenger, and I was looking around and I just thought `Wow.' You hear about Notre Dame being a storied program in college football, and I was standing there on the field just taking it all in. And then, we played the game and it was still going all the way to the end until we left. I'd have to say that the whole day in South Bend was my greatest thrill.
Q: Aside from that remarkable game-winning catch in the end zone at Notre Dame, you've been on the receiving end of some terrific touchdown plays over the last three years. In 2003, your touchdown reception at Penn State put the Eagles on the board and led to a 27-14 victory. Most recently, in the MPC Computers Bowl, you had two first-half touchdown catches. How do you explain your knack for always being an integral part of the big play?
A: It's just about playing the game. The way the seasons have gone and the plays that you mentioned have just been out of the blue. I was never the receiver to catch six or seven passes every game or five touchdowns each season. When the play is called, I just do my job and run a route or make a block. I'm very thankful for it, and it's great for it to be like that. I'm looking forward to being a more integral part of the offense. But, I'll take it where I can get it.
Q: In high school, you showed great promise not only in football, but also in baseball. You earned numerous baseball honors and were drafted by the Boston Red Sox - what led you to choose football over baseball?
A: At that time, it was unbelievable. It was the toughest part of my life, in terms of making a decision. But it was the best situation I could be in. I remember how frustrated it got me that time was winding down and that I had to make a decision. But, in another eye, I knew that I was in a position that a lot of people would like to be in. Pretty much the main reason I chose to come to school over playing baseball was the education and not so much about the contract negotiation. I just felt that if I were to play baseball and give up the opportunity to come here, it would have to be worth it. In my eyes, it wasn't worth it. The education is a lot more valuable than the money. It just didn't weigh out.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your family. What are the plusses/minuses of growing up with seven sisters?
A: A lot of people's eyes just light up when they hear I have seven sisters. It was easy for me to grow, because they left me to do my own thing with my friends. Sometimes you hear about someone who has a nagging little brother or that nagging little sister, but my five older sisters and two younger sisters, who are twins, were always doing their own thing. I have a sister who is one year older than me, and we're very close - people always thought we were twins because we were always hanging out together. People think that it is a lot of them picking on me, which does happen from time to time, but it's just great. I wouldn't trade it for anything - not for an older brother or a younger brother. With seven sisters have come 13 nieces and nephews and another one on the way. My mom is a great lady, and she takes such good care of all of us. My dad just passed away on April 1, so my family is going through a tough time right now. But it's crazy, because ever since that day, we've looked at being a family in a whole new light. Everyone was close to begin with, but it's just ridiculous how it is now because the family I have now is one-of-a-kind.
Q: What are your plans for the summer - football/conditioning-wise and also away from the Yawkey Center?
A: Well, this summer, I'm just devoting most of my time to taking care of my family at home, since I'm the only man there after the passing of my father. So, whenever I'm not here working out and lifting with the guys, I'll be at home working and just helping out my family.
- interview conducted by Alex Timiraos