Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Looks can be deceiving
By Damon Sayles ESPN RecruitingNation
IRVING, Texas -- LaQuvionte Gonzalez is one of those players who on the outside represents everything he's not on the inside.
And it's something he takes pride in.
One glance at the 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior from Cedar Hill (Texas) High School paints the picture of a rebel. Multiple tattoos on his arms. Blond tips all over his brown hair. A smirk on the face.
Texas A&M commit LaQuvionte Gonzalez can do it all, but will likely be a slot receiver for the Aggies.
What people fail to realize is that every tattoo has a personal meaning. The smirk, usually seen on or around the football field, only symbolizes the determination and concentration he puts into every play.
The blond tips? Merely a fashion statement. It could be argued that his hair may help him get additional notice around the Cedar Hill campus.
"People are going to think what they want," Gonzalez said, "but until they meet me, they're not going to really know who I am."
And who is he? Gonzalez is the consummate team player and an electric athlete who can play as many as six positions effectively. He's an ESPNU 150 Watch List member who was offered by more than a dozen schools before committing to Texas A&M less than three weeks ago.
Gonzalez is Cedar Hill's go-to guy -- a high compliment considering the program is consistently loaded with BCS-caliber players.
"Whenever you look at him, the word 'explosive' comes to mind," Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said. "He's a home run hitter. He can score anywhere on the field. He's got great hips, great vision and great speed.
"Most importantly, he loves playing the game of football."
Gonzalez lined up at running back, receiver, defensive back, punt returner and kickoff returner last season for Cedar Hill. He rushed for 919 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for a team-high 346 yards and five touchdowns.
Gonzalez's athleticism alone made him a prime target for West Virginia, Clemson, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State, in addition to Texas A&M. He's run the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. A high jumper for Cedar Hill's track team, Gonzalez has a 41-inch vertical and has cleared 6-foot-9 in the high jump. He's looking to clear 7 feet this spring.
Gonzalez's 2011 season highlights show his many talents. The 86-yard touchdown run against Mansfield (Texas) Legacy in September showed his breakaway speed. The October game against Grand Prairie (Texas) was the true display of versatility, as he scored four times -- twice rushing, once on a pass play and again by way of a 99-yard kickoff return.
"You can play him at slot [receiver] or out of the backfield. Wherever you play him, he's going to go," McGuire said. "I think he's one of the best punt returners and kickoff returners in the nation.
"Then, when you look at the fact that he's a kid who's got the grades and the test scores, you can see why he's put himself in a good position to be recruited by a lot of people."
Cedar Hill has had a reputation of producing athletes who came out of middle school with extremely high expectations. Gonzalez played on the varsity as a freshman, shining on the special teams as a returner. By his sophomore year, he was used heavily in both rushing and passing situations.
What makes Gonzalez so important, McGuire said, is his willingness to be a team player. He never complains about not getting the ball enough. When he's not making a play with the ball, he's helping the team by making a key block or serving as a decoy.
"I'd play D-line if I had to," Gonzalez said. "As long as I'm helping my team win."
Gonzalez is excited about continuing his football career at Texas A&M, and he's a big fan of head coach Kevin Sumlin and his primary recruiting contact, receivers coach David Beaty. Attending college in Texas and playing in the SEC was enough to sell him, as Gonzalez is pumped about lining up as a slot receiver against some of the best defensive backs in the country.
Before that, Gonzalez said he wants to lead Cedar Hill to its first state title since 2006. The Longhorns have the talent to compete and a championship run is definitely possible.
That, not his initial appearance, is what he and McGuire want the football world to focus on.
"When you first see him, you might think it's all about him," McGuire added, "but it doesn't take long to see he's a good teammate. He doesn't have that rough edge about him. He's a fun kid who happens to be very gifted on the football field."
"I'm here to help my team," he said. "I'm a laid-back dude, but when it comes to the field, I want us to get the attention. "If that means I have to put on a show ..."
Well, he's proven he's more than happy to do just that.