Anthony Gonzalez had many reasons to stay at Ohio State for his senior season, and plenty reasons more to skip ahead to his NFL career. In the end, the reasons to leave outweighed the reasons to stay.
But before Gonzalez could reach that decision, he polled many of his coaches, friends and especially his parents. Shamelessly quoting The Clash, he asked, "should I stay or should I go?"
Ohio State fans continue to dissect that very question. They ponder his rationale and in some cases, selfishly or otherwise, wonder if he could have been doing himself a disservice not playing one more season in the Scarlet & Gray.
Putting those memorable lyrics to use, "If I go there will be trouble. And if I stay it will be double."
Some may apply that thinking to Gonzalez. If he returned for his senior season, it would have been without quarterback Troy Smith - who Gonzalez thanked many times in his Thursday press conference to announce his decision to depart Ohio State. It also will likely be without wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. by his side, putting additional attention to Gonzalez from opposing teams.
But that, says Gonzalez, was not a factor in declaring for the NFL.
"At no point did I think that the thought of my production going down or that affecting my draft stock did that come into my brain at all for a lot of reasons," he said. "For one, my personal production, if I had come back, would not have been near the top of my priority list but two, because I have full faith in our coaches and the guys we have coming back."
Here are some of the pros and cons discussed by Gonzalez, wide receiver coach Darrell Hazell and his father Edgar, and their thoughts on them:
Pros of staying
"In all honesty, when I woke up this morning, I was a little bit unsure," explained Gonzalez. "I had one more conversation with Coach Hazell and one more conversation with my father and reflecting on it myself obviously, it became as clear as it has been."
"Emotionally, it's tough to walk away from all of this," added his father. "Very tough."
"When you have a guy like that who you just absolutely fall in love with because he does things right all the time, it's hard," said Hazell. "You want him to be around forever. You want guys like that in your program. I just listen. I always tell him, in the end, you have to do what's best for you."
Loyalty to the coaches and program
"I think one of the biggest hang-ups he had was whether we felt like he was being disloyal to us by his leaving," Hazell noted. "At no point in time did we ever feel disloyalty to the program.
"I said, 'You've done every single thing that I've ever asked you to do for me, how could I ever think you're being disloyal by leaving right now?'" Hazell told Gonzalez about his concerns he wasn't being loyal to the Ohio State coaching staff.
Chances of being a captain
"It's not hard because I want to be captain for myself. It's hard because I've always wanted to affect the people on this team in a positive way," he said. "The one thing I've always wanted out of all my teammates and look at them and for them to respect me. That's all I've ever wanted - if I were to be voted captain, it would be a sign of that. It's something that would be really neat to be appointed a leader of this tremendous group of people."
"He could contribute as a leader and help build the program next year," said Mr. Gonzalez. "I think it's time to hand the baton to the next guy."
Getting his degree
"The goal in my opinion, the goal of every student-athlete should be to earn a meaningful degree, and to prepare himself for his chosen profession – whatever it is," Gonzalez added. "The fact that once this year is ending, I will have done both of those things, to me that's what the college experience in terms of goals, is pretty much as far as you can go with the goals."
"If he was an academic junior and an athletic junior, it would be a different consideration," his father noted of his son graduating this upcoming spring. "He's been here four years - he's ready."
Improving draft stock
"Could it have gone up (by staying)? Maybe," he said. "Would it have gone up a whole lot? I don't know - it's hard to say."
Cons of staying
Injuries (with two concussions already)
"The reality of the game of football is the worst-case scenario is that I could show up first play of spring ball, something terrible could happen and I may never be able to play this game and fulfill all the dreams I wanted to," he said. "Out the window would be everything."
"I understand where he's coming from," said Hazell of the injury risk. "I have mixed emotions because I hate to see him go, but he's going to have a tremendous NFL career because he takes care of his body so well. He will do all the right things to make sure that he stays in the league for a long time."
Resources to help community and do charitable work
"I want to devote all of my time and resources to whatever team I'm on and that community," Gonzalez said, adding he would like to give back to the community and two charities - the American Cancer Society and Arrupe, a program run at St. Ignatius High School.
Second round too high to pass up
"We're all men here - we're not mothers. But my experience with my wife is that women don't want their kids to grow up," Edgar Gonzalez said of his wife's reluctance for Gonzalez to leave early.
"The wise decision is to go," the elder Gonzalez said. "I'm more practical than he is - I'm 52 years old so I can look at things a little differently. He's still attached to it emotionally."
Moving to the next chapter
"Eventually I'm going to do law school," Gonzalez said. "This is my profession. This is my job now"
Also quotable & notable
On having a pro career:
"He knows he can compete at the next level," Gonzalez' father said.
"Obviously it's difficult to make an NFL roster and stay on an NFL roster," Gonzalez added,"but for me that's up to me. That's my job now. That was going to be my job either this year or next year. Would I be better equipped having one more year? It's likely I would have been a little better equipped. Now how much better equipped, I don't now. Now I'll say this: I like my chances."
On Gonzalez going to the NFL and eventually law school:
"I don't think they're independent. To me, it seems like people want to paint athletes with a certain brush – professional or collegiate. They want them to be football players. It would be nice if they had other things going on, but at the end of the day, people want good football players and it would be nice if they were good people. To me, there's much more to life than football. A lot of that has to do with my parents and the way they raised me. Football is very important, don't get me wrong – it's obviously what I've chosen to do for the time, or until they tell me to stop but doing other things and helping people and effecting change in the world – those are obviously two very important things as well and things that I don't take lightly."
On beginning to think about the possibility of declaring for the NFL early:
"It's difficult because for me, all I ever wanted to do was contribute to a winning Ohio State football team. When I woke up in the morning that's what I thought about and when I went to bed at night that's what I thought about – how could I make Ohio State football a better place? When people call you and they want to talk to you about something like that that, for me I had no interest in it. It was frustrating to be honest."
On agents contacting him during the season and after the Michigan game:
"There were quite a few times where I told people, ‘look I appreciate your interest but honestly, if you contact me again, I'm not going to consider you.' That's unfortunately for me, one of the uglier sides of college football – having to deal with that whole thing. I ended up just referring everybody to him. He's much wiser than me. He put some people through a little grilling session.
On his decision to become a judge after his NFL career:
"I was talking to, actually a priest, and I said that's what I wanted to do. He said, ‘you know what you should do? Be justice. Be justice in the world. Whatever you do, do it justly. Whatever decisions you make, make sure it's the right just decisions.' To me, justice and equality and all that are some of the most important things in the world. It's just something that I've always wanted to be apart of.
* Gonzalez will be represented by Mike McCartney of Priority Sports in Chicago - the same agent that represents A.J. Hawk.
* Gonzalez will do several marketing projects and autograph sessions over the next few months. Much of the proceeds for the autograph sessions will be donated to the two charities he mentioned.
Filling His Shoes
With the departure of Gonzalez and expected departure of Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State now will turn to sophomore Brian Robiskie, sophomore Brian Hartline and freshman Ray Small.
"At Ohio State, there's so many people that are just as good or better as people that have been here before," Gonzalez said. "There's no exception. Our receiver position is loaded as far as I'm concerned. Between Robo (Brian Robiskie), (Brian) Hartline, Ray Small, (Albert) Dukes, you name a guy and whoever we bring in, I'm sure those people will be tremendous as well. In no way do I think I'm leaving people out to dry. This is Ohio State."
Hartline specifically will be counted on to step into the vacated slot position at Ohio State.
Gonzalez believes Hartline is equipped to handle the position.
"He's tremendously talented. He's one of the more talented people that I've been around from a receiving standpoint," Gonzalez added. "He has a lot of room to grow and I'm sure he will. He takes it very seriously, he's a very focused kid and he loves what he's doing. I think he'll do a fine job – probably a better job than me."
"Small is very explosive like Teddy is," he said. "Hartline is more similar to Gonzo than the other guys inside where he's got a feel for inside coverages, has the knack of getting open and playing off defenders. He's tough."
Although Hazell won't bank one way or another on Ginn until he makes his announcement, he knows they might be looking at a new receiving core next season. That fact, however, does not concern him completely.
"I feel really good at where we are," he added. "Those younger players have turned out to be tremendous players for us. Hartline is really coming and Robiskie is getting better and better. Then we've got to bring Ray Small along because he's explosive and very talented."