Jackson Gonzales is not one to trash talk the competition – his play speaks for itself.
The 5-foot-8 senior slot receiver for the Golden Tornado is often ragged on by his opponents for his small stature. That is, until he leaves them in his dust.
“Right after that first catch and I make a dude slip, no one talks much anymore,” Gonzales said.
“All the jukes are basketball moves,” said Gonzales, who has played in a CIF final four twice in the past calendar year. He was a member of the Dons basketball team that made to the CIF-SS semifinals last season. “That’s where it comes from. All those cuts and jukes, being able to move your hips like that – it’s all from different sports.”
The standout on the hardwood and gridiron jokes that he was also a baseball player for a time – though the speedster said the game was too slow for his liking. His fellow receivers are trying to get him to join the track team and become the fourth member of the 4×100 relay alongside Moki Nacario, Jake Knecht and Dakota Hill.
For now, Gonzales has his sights set on capturing the CIF-SS Division 8 championship. After suffering a scary head injury a week ago that left him motionless on the turf for several minutes, Gonzales’ teammates were able to rally and give him a chance at a ring.
Following the 37-15 victory last week, coach J.T Stone said he challenged his players to make sure that Gonzales had a shot to play for a title. His team responded in a big way to set up tonight’s showdown with Sunny Hills.
“He’s like the quiet assassin,” Stone said of Gonzales. “He doesn’t say a lot, but it’s the way he plays, his actions and the way he carries himself on campus. A lot of people don’t know that Jackson is a 4.5 GPA student. The kids see that and respect that. He’s just a well-rounded kid and when you work hard in the classroom and on the field, the kids see that.
“He’s a leader in that way,” Stone said. “He doesn’t need to say much because he’s an example. It makes my job a lot easier.”
With Gonzales able to lead by example, it also makes things easier on quarterback Deacon Hill.
Gonzales often has the final say on crucial play calls and frequently points out adjustments in real time.
“He’s not as much of a vocal leader, but when he talks it’s always important and it’s what we need to do,” Hill said. “He just leads by example. Not talking, just going out there and making plays.
“It’s always nice to have one of those players on your team,” Hill added. “He makes sure everybody is doing the right thing.”
Gonzales was raised in a football family. He started playing flag football in elementary school and took up tackle football in middle school. His dad, Will, is the former head coach at San Marcos High and his little brother, Grant, starts at safety for the Golden Tornado.
“We didn’t even go to the same elementary school,” Gonzales said when asked about his little brother. “I always played up and he always played on his team, so we never really got to play together. It’s a really cool experience. And to make a run my senior year with my brother on the team, it’s pretty cool.”
Gonzales remembers growing up and playing against his brother in the yard. Will threw the passes as Jackson would line up at receiver and Grant would try and shut him down.
“That’s all we’ve been talking about, Gonzales said.
“He’s one of the hardest hitters I’ve ever seen,” he said about Grant. “The hardest hit I’ve ever taken – even after last week – is when he used to hit me.”
While Gonzales is elated about the chance to win a title, he is a bit jealous of his younger brother.
“I’m just mad that if we win it he’s going to get that (ring) as a sophomore… I had to wait until my senior year.”
Entering tonight’s game, Gonzales has caught 47 passes for 720 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a score against San Marcos. With a bevy of threats at the receiver position for the Golden Tornado, Gonzales will look to continue to contribute to his teams success.
“He’s small, but if you know the DNA you know he can play,” Stone said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are. If you can play football, you can play football. He’s a little guy who can really play football and he plays big. That’s huge for us.”