Fighting Through

When Tito Gonzales met with West Virginia's football coaches last year, he heard some words that might have sent a less strong individual packing.

"The situation last year was the coaches told me they didn't feel I could play at this level," said Gonzales, who did not play during his redshirt freshman season. "But I felt like if I left after they told me that, it would have been an excuse for me to leave a lot of things in life when they got hard or when door closed on me and wouldn't open. I might have found myself quitting again in those situations in life. It wasn't in my personality to leave."

So, rather than pout about his situation, Gonzales turned up the heat on his workout routines. And after a summer termed "one of the best on the team" Gonzales was named one of the most improved performers on the squad by head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"I feel like I improved a lot over the summer," he confirmed. When the coaches told me that, it was extra motivation for me. When I felt like I didn't have anything left, I'd recall what they said. It made me feel I could go on."

Gonzales' improvement in the offseason program has translated into improvement on the field as well. Although he doesn't appear to be in a first team position just yet, he has put his name in the mix for playing time chances – a vast improvement over the last seat on the bus he held just a year ago.

" I just want to work hard with every opportunity I get, and show that to the coaches," the soft-spoken Floridian said. "In this program, it's not about what you did yesterday or last year, but what you do now. I just want to go out there and prove to the coaches that I can play on this level. I just want to help my team win any way shape or form I can. I just want to be a contributor to the wide receiver group and make my coach proud."

Complicating Gonzales' transition to college was the hiring of Butch Jones as wide receivers coach. Gonzales, who was recruited by former WVU coach Steve Bird, has some adjusting to do with Jones.

"The transition to Coach Jones was tough at first," he admitted. "He's a perfectionist. I think a lot of our coaches are. But once you learn how to strive for perfection and play your hardest, you find yourself starting to fit in."

Some observers might struggle to see some of the improvements in Gonzales' game, just as he struggled to meet his coaches' expectations during his first year at WVU. Those that matter most have noticed the progression, however.

"Coming to West Virginia as a freshman receiver is really hard. You need to know the other guy's position, so you can help him. "If a guy lines up next to you and doesn't know something, and I can help him, that can eliminate a mistake on the field. Knowing everything you have to know, plus knowing the other guy's assignment, can be tough.

"There's also a whole lot of other things that go into playing receiver," Gonzales continued. "Blocking, catching, running a great route to open up another guy, there's a lot of things there."

The scramble to find consistent performers at the wide receiver position has been ongoing since Day One of Rich Rodriguez' coaching tenure at West Virginia. And while the roster of game-ready wideouts is nowhere near completion (not to mention a depth chart), it looks as if there is at least one more candidate bent on putting his name on that list.

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