The Cleveland native and Ohio State product is starting his fifth year with the Colts. The first two years of his career went the way that is typical for most young players. The second two, however, have been difficult because of injuries.
It has been hard for fans of the team because they would like to see Gonzalez on the field. Sometimes, those well-wishers have been vocal in their wishes to see him on the field. It has been much, much tougher for Gonzalez because of his desire to play, and to play for some special people – his teammates.
Gonzalez does not devote his sincerest attention to the outside. His dedicated efforts are to be on the field on Sundays when he can make a difference for the team.
"What people say, no, it does not bother me. It bothers me that for the last two seasons I have had to sit on the sidelines and watch my teammates and best friends go out there and do what they love and what I love," said Gonzalez.
People throughout life do things that bring them personal or professional satisfaction. Gonzalez's love of football can be seen in his meticulous approach to the game both mentally and physically. What he gets out of it the most is revealing about a person who chooses to reveal himself carefully in words.
"The best part of playing football by far is being able to share the team wins on the field every Sunday. That's by far the best part of football," he said. "Not being able to do that has been disappointing. If other people are disappointed, I assure you I'm more disappointed than anyone else."
Gonzalez opened his career in 2007, the year after Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLI. He was joining a receiving corps that included Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, players who had caught 95 and 86 passes, respectively, in that title season. He would be sharing the field with tight end Dallas Clark, who had 30 receptions during the 2006 season before erupting for 21 snares for 317 during the four-game playoff run, and versatile running back Joseph Addai, who had 40 receptions in his 2006 rookie season and who would get 41 more in 2007.
Gonzalez found time on the field. He started nine of 13 outings and made the most of the opportunity. He had 37 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns. With two 100 outings, he became one of just five Colts rookies ever to achieve the feat. His season-long was a 57-yard touchdown reception at Baltimore, a contest where he scored twice and had six receptions for 134 yards. He added a 55-yard scoring reception against San Diego in the playoffs in finishing off his rookie year.
In 2008, he started two of 16 appearances and had 58 receptions for 664 yards and four scores. He had receptions in every outing, and he was one of four Colts to top 55 receptions as quarterback Peyton Manning distributed the ball around the field in completing 371 passes for 4,002 yards.
Though the graph was trending up for Gonzalez, health can be an elusive thing in every walk of life. The lack of it in sports undermines the hard work athletes make year-round to put themselves in positions to perform.
Gonzalez's third season included only one quarter of the opener against Jacksonville before his season was halted by a knee injury. The club kept Gonzalez active most of the year with the hope he could return for the playoffs. Eventually, he was placed on injured reserve in late December.
His 2010 season may have been even tougher. Gonzalez appeared in two games, both Houston – the opener and in game seven. He was injured in both games and put on injured reserve in early November with a knee injury. He had five receptions for 67 yards.
Gonzalez has come back again and is working hard in training camp. He assessed himself recently.
"I've put on a little bit of weight, intentionally, not fat weight," said Gonzalez. "(I'm) right around 200. I always played at 193. Now, I'm just a shade under 200. I feel good. I feel stronger. I feel like everything is working like I want it to. Now it's time to see if all of that paid off."
When he is out there, there is no hesitation in his mindset to perform.
"When I'm out there, never once have I thought, whether this year or last year, thought, 'Oh boy, I just don't feel right,' or 'What's going to happen,' or anything like that," he said. "It's never really been on my mind. When I'm out there, I'm thinking more in terms of, 'How am I going to make this next play?' There's no mental hesitation anyway, from a health standpoint."
Gonzalez is motivated to perform like all athletes. The motivation is not for what observers might say. He is motivated to play in America's most popular sport because for every NFL player, there are only so many Sundays in a career. He also is spurred on by an intense sense of duty.
"I think I stay pretty motivated regardless (of what others may say). To say the thought hasn't occurred to me that, 'Hey, this is a big opportunity. This may be one of my last opportunities, if not the last opportunity.' Yeah, that's probably a real thought," said Gonzalez. "Honestly more than that, I just want to be on the field with my teammates. That's it. I just want to be out there fighting with them, helping them win games. That's what I've missed the last two years. That's by far the most disappointing thing."
Players always deal with the ups and downs and things that can happen in a career. Gonzalez is determined, and he is giving it his all in hopes that 2011 can be a return to what he accomplished during his first two seasons.
"Look, I didn't go to the Pro Bowl my first two years, but I also wasn't completely unproductive," he said. "I do feel like when given the opportunity, or when I've earned the opportunity, I've played well. I don't think I've necessarily been a poor player. It's just been the health. There's a little of luck in that, I guess. At the same point, I'm trying to control everything I can control with my body. I feel like I'm in the right place. I felt that way last year, though, so we'll see."