Billy Gonzales has been a friend of new Illinois football coach Tim Beckman since their days coaching at Bowling Green. The receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator looks forward to working with Beckman again with the Illini.
"I'm extremely excited and happy to be here. I'm ready to get going."
He would probably have accepted Beckman's offer regardless of the location, but he's been pleasantly surprised by the quality of his new school.
"I didn't realize how beautiful the campus was. The campus is absolutely gorgeous. I didn't realize how great the education was. I was blown away when we went over to the academic center with recruits and got a chance to see the statistics of the colleges that we have here. Unbelievable to have a chance to go to the Business department and have their raw statistics on job opportunities. To me that's incredible."
Gonzales was also encouraged by a friend familiar with the Illinois football program.
"When I took the job, I had a high school buddy in the Chicago area who called me up. We had a long talk, and he told me that this place and the state of Illinois is just hungry. He said, 'They are hungry and very excited about what's going on right now. If you can get this thing going, locking this state down and keeping our players in state, your guys will be very successful.'"
Of course, assembling a productive and complimentary offensive staff was high priority for Beckman. He and Gonzales selected coaches compatible with their offensive philosophy and accustomed to each other's personalities.
"Anytime you choose a school, you want to surround yourself with good people. I've had a long relationship with Coach (Tim) Salem. It goes all the way back to 1999. He was one of the coaches at Colorado State when I played.
"You look back at how Coach (Chris) Beatty and I met when he was coaching at North Stafford (high school). Coach Banks was a GA the same time I was in the Mid-American conference back in the early '90s. Alex Golesh will bring so much to our offense.
"And obviously Coach (Luke) Butkus is experienced and played here. His ability to communicate the offense to the players and relate to them, he's full of energy. He's what you want in an offensive line guy.
"You want to surround yourself with a great group of people. Look at what Coach Beckman has done to surround himself with a great group of coaches that believe in the same values that he does."
While quarterback coach Chris Beatty is listed as a co-coordinator for offense, Gonzales will be calling plays on Saturdays. This is his first opportunity for that role, but he is confident knowing the help he will receive preparing for games.
"The game plan is going to be prepared on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then you start executing on Thursday and Friday. You keep preparing until the foot hits the ball on Saturday.
"Everybody's got their area of expertise. Every week, we might do something different based on what we see in the defense. We are going to be working together, it's going to be our offense. No individual offense."
Without doubt, getting Illinois to the level of his previous schools LSU and Florida requires outstanding recruiting. Golzales is considered an outstanding recruiter.
"I think the biggest thing is, we are recruiting guys to win championships here, to be a part of something special. I think that sells itself. We have the facilities, it's a gorgeous facility. The campus is gorgeous, Coach Beckman is a great coach. We have a great AD, we've got a great president. Everything is in place right here, in my opinion, for this place to blow up.
"The biggest thing we've got to do, and Coach Beckman has already done a great job of this, is getting into the high schools in this state. I've had a chance to be in some of the high schools already recruiting for next year's guys. I think whenever you can build those relationships with your high school coaches, I think that's how it starts."
What will be his recruiting territories?
"We haven't finalized everything yet. I know I'll have some central Illinois. And then I'll have two out-of-state areas. One, I'll probably have South Florida because I've been in South Florida for eight or nine years. And then I think I might have the Dallas area."
The Illini presently have 11 Floridians on their roster, and others have graduated recently. Gonzales knows they will be good ambassadors to help the Illini get into doors of outstanding Florida prospects.
"It always does help to relate when they come to the campus. They can ask the questions, 'What is it like, what is it like to get home, are you driving somewhere for spring break?' Anytime you have a player from that same area, it always helps.
"Corey (Liuget) is from down in South Florida, and he's done a fantastic job. And A.J. (Jenkins) has had a great career also."
Life has been extremely hectic for Golzales up to now. He's looking forward to his primary job, coaching.
"We came in during the back end of recruiting. So we've only had two days to sit in the office and talk about football. We live to sit in our little cubicle rooms about 10 feet wide and hash out what we want to do. I think we can take advantage of this if we can't do this. Somebody's got to do this.
"It's multiple answers, but that's the great thing. Being with our players, building relationships with the guys, that's what I'm excited about. Getting a chance to get down in the weight room and see the guys compete, build those relationships. Ultimately, that's what's going to help us win."