Though it took him nearly five minutes to say it, Anthony Gonzalez left little doubt as to his intentions at the beginning of his 2 PM press conference Thursday. Fighting back tears and already thanking Ohio State for everything they've done for him personally and athletically, Gonzalez finally told reporters in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center his intentions to forego his senior season and declare for the NFL draft.
"I came up with the decision that it would be best for me, at this point, to forego the opportunity of playing here one more year and pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the National Football League," Gonzalez said Thursday.
"I'm 100 percent committed to it, despite how I might seem right now"
This past season, the 6-1 junior had 51 receptions for 734 yards and 8 touchdowns. Shortly following the 42-39 Ohio State victory over Michigan, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel approached Gonzalez and suggested he submit paperwork to the NFL pre-draft committee to receive an estimated draft status.
Gonzalez said the draft committee came back with a likely second round status.
"In order to arrive at this decision, I carefully weighed all the factors," he explained. "I took the best and worst-case scenario of each situation. Basically, the best-case scenario of leaving would be maybe sneak into the first round, maybe you don't. Worst-case scenario, maybe you fall down the draft boards or what have you. Am I OK with the worst-case scenario there? Yeah I guess I'm OK with the worst-case scenario.
"Best and worst-case scenario of returning: best-case scenario you could come up with the best experience ever because that's what this place is all about," Gonzalez added. "It's about great experiences, great memories, great people, what have you. I weigh that against what's the worst-case scenario? The reality of the game of football is that the worst-case scenario is that I could show up first day of spring ball and something terrible may happen and I may never be able to play this game and fulfill all the dreams I wanted to."
Gonzalez said he consulted his father, mother, coaches Jim Bollman, Darrell Hazell and Jim Tressel as well as several of his teammates. None of them, however, could tell him what was best for him.
"I just told him, 'hey, you've got to do what's best for you,'" said Hazell, Gonzalez's position coach.
More outspoken of the decision was Edgar Gonzalez, Anthony's father.
"His heart was into staying up until 11 AM (today) but I'm going to tell you, it's difficult to stay and it's difficult to go," he said. "I said if it comes back first or second round, I'm going to advise him to go. When it came back second round, I said, 'you've got to get out.'"
Anthony's mother was not quite as gung-ho about it as his father was.
Even up until Wednesday, Gonzalez said she was looking for him to stay at Ohio State for his senior season.
"She called me probably three times yesterday in tears trying to make sure I was making the right decision," he said. "I finally called my dad and said, 'hey, you've got to deal with her. I can't. I don't know what I'm doing right now. I don't know what to say to her.
"He did and she called me back and said, 'hey I'm totally 100 percent behind you now,'" Gonzalez added to a rousing chorus of laughter.
Despite the 41-14 loss to Florida, Gonzalez was mostly leaning towards going to the NFL once he got his NFL draft status returned.
He said there was only a moment he considered staying.
"Initially, the reacion was, 'well, I've got to come back,'" he said after the loss in the BCS Championship, "but once you come to grips with reality and once you come to grips with all the facts and you think about what is actually best in life, that's kind of where the decision took off."
Gonzalez said he's leaving behind a group of people, including teammates and coaches, that have touched his life.
"I personally believe I'm part of the greatest football family in college sports," he said.