Gainesville football coach Bruce Miller has a justifiable frustration with the lack of interest from college programs in his senior quarterback, Mikey Gonzalez.
In his lone season as starter for the Red Elephants in 2014, Gonzalez showed all the quarterback skills and leadership traits to earn him a shot to play at the next level. Gonzalez threw for 3,160 yards and 38 touchdowns.
The Red Elephants coach said Gonzalez can throw the deep ball as well as his predecessor, Deshaun Watson, who started at Clemson as a freshman this season. Gonzalez never had injury issues that should raise a red flag either, and hasn’t got off-the-field issues that coaches could raise as problematic.
Miller knows that, fair or unfair, Gonzalez’s lack of offers comes down to his small frame, standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 170 pounds.
“If he was 6-4 and 200 pounds, every school would be after him,” said Miller. “It all has to do with just his height and size.”
However, what Gonzalez did on the high school football stage in 2014 was nothing short of spectacular. He followed Watson’s four years at quarterback, and used his precise touch on the football and maturity under pressure to guide the Red Elephants to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals and 10-3 record. Even though Gonzalez followed back-to-back Division I quarterbacks in the Gainesville program, he also set some new records for his position, including passing yards in a game (457 vs. Cedar Shoals) and completion percentage in a season (71.4).
For his efforts, Gonzalez is The Times’ Football Player of the Year.
“It was a great honor to have a season like I did,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and be able to tell my children about one day.”
Gonzalez is going to take the high road with regards to his college football recruiting picture. He’d love to play either football or baseball at the next level, should the opportunity arise. Miller said that a scattering of schools at the Division II and Division III level have expressed interest in Gonzalez as a quarterback, but no concrete scholarship offers have manifested.
If a college program does decide to sign Gonzalez, Miller said they’ll be getting a player with tremendous pocket presence and the ability to throw the deep pass just as accurately as Watson.
“Mikey reminds me a lot of Seattle’s quarterback, Russell Wilson,” Miller said. “(Gonzalez) has an uncanny ability to move around in the pocket and see his receivers down the field.”
Gonzalez said he was able to be successful in his lone year as starter because he didn’t put any more pressure than need be on himself. He didn’t try to become the second-coming of Watson. Nor did Gonzalez listen to the naysayers who said behind his back he wouldn’t be successful in the starting role. Gonzalez focused on fine-tuning the skills he learned in the film room and practice field as a four-year varsity player for Gainesville. Even though Gonzalez knew he wasn’t going to play much his first three years behind Watson, it didn’t deter him from showing up for every quarterback meeting before school and taking practice seriously.
Once he got his shot in 2014 to start, Gonzalez didn’t look back. In addition to the big night against Cedar Shoals, Gonzalez also went over 300 yards passing in an upset win against Harris County in the second round of the playoffs, and against Clarke Central in region play.
Red Elephants quarterback coach Michael Perry said Gonzalez’s height was never an issue on the field thanks to the quarterback’s shiftiness. He only had three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage all season.
Gonzalez’s only time in varsity action his first three years of high school was in mop-up duty for Watson late in the game with a big lead already in hand.
“Not too many players would know they’re not going to play but still come to everything for the quarterbacks,” Perry said. “Mikey earned the role as our quarterback this season.”
And Gonzalez’s touch on the deep pass was always there. He had a great connection with wide receiver Chris Williamson (1,061 yards, 14 touchdowns) all year. Late in the year, they started making it a routine to hook up on the long post route. Williamson could find separation from the defensive back. Gonzalez could put the perfect touch on the ball where Williamson could catch it in stride without slowing down for the touchdown.
Gonzalez said all the credit for his big numbers goes to the receivers, Michael Byrd in the backfield, the blocking of the offensive line and the coaching staff for putting him in the best position to succeed.
“I know sometimes I would throw a screen pass and the receiver would take it for a long touchdown,” Gonzalez said.
Miller was assured Gonzalez would be able to start at quarterback when his time arrived as a senior. One day when Gonzalez was a sophomore, he was practicing throwing long balls with Watson. Miller said Gonzalez was able to throw it just as well as his state record-shattering quarterback Watson.
“When that happened, I remember saying to coach Perry, ‘there’s some people overlooking what Mikey’s able to do,’” Miller added.
Miller said in the big picture Gonzalez’s season is a lesson to younger players about how to approach the game. Even before the 2014 season, Miller already knew Gonzalez was a winner, only losing one game in three years as freshman and junior varsity signal caller.
“Mikey showed this season what’s possible when you put in the work and bide your time,” Miller said. “Mikey knew all along that Deshaun was the better player when they were together, but Mikey still listened to every word coach Perry had to say and didn’t worry about who got the credit.
“He was able to make up for what he lacked in height and size with a great knowledge of the game.”