Recently we had the opportunity to talk at length with University of Miami offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez.
Labeled by many as an overachiever, where Gonzalez is today is due to a lot of hard work and determination. Rising from being a walk-on, non-scholarship player to starting over 40 consecutive games, Gonzalez takes nothing for granted and will not slow down until he reaches his goal, to play in the National Football League.
Below is the interesting tale of one Joaquin Gonzalez.
Q: Joaquin tell me a little about yourself as you prepare for life after college.
JG: I went to high school at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, I ran track and played football. I wanted to stay home to goto school, so I enrolled at Miami and was a football walk-on, I wasn't offered a scholarship to come here. I was redshirted in 1997, that actually helped me get ready to play football and get started with my classes.
Q: What is your major at Miami and when will you complete your studies?
JG: My major is marketing, I enjoy that aspect of business and marketing is an area that I am comfortable in for my the time after I am done playing football. I am done, I have my degree and I'm proud to have accomplished that.
Q: When your done playing football? You sound very sure that you will go onto the next level.
JG: I am going to play at the next level, I know I will. Wherever I go, I'll stick and play for awhile, there is no giving up in me, I work hard and I expect to be great.
Q: Speaking of great, the offensive line that you played on in Miami is considered one of the very best in college football history, what are your thoughts on that label?
JG: We are all self-made players. (Martin) Bibla, (Brett) Romberg and myself, we all came here and worked hard. None of us were highly recruited, nothing was given to us and we all communicate well. We spend a lot of time together and pretty much know what the other is thinking.
Q: Can you evaluate your play and tell us what you believe to be your strengths and weaknesses?
JG: I'm confident in my pass blocking, I feel that is the area of my game that I have excelled in. Since starting in my freshman year, I have given up two sacks. John Engleberger beat me once and I can't even remember the other one. In the running game, I know that I have to stay lower and drive off the ball. I have been working on my leverage.
Q: There have been many players that have left the Miami program for the NFL in recent years, have you been influenced and readied for the grind of the NFL?
JG: We've had a lot of great guys come through here in the past five years and before that. Coach (Butch) Davis deserves all the credit in the world for getting us as a team to where we are and for bringing this group of players together. If you look at the offensive linemen, we're a mixed cultural bag of characters from all over the country that nobody really wanted. Coach Davis told us to work hard, worked us hard and was pretty much a no nonsense guy. He taught and instilled character and class in us, I owe so much to Coach Davis. I'm pretty good friends with Richard Mercier (former Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman and current Cleveland Brown). He started 40-something games while he was here. Coach (Art) Kehoe is the offensive line coach and gets into me once in a while. He gears his linemen to learn, he is quick and witty, and smart.
Q: You talk about Coach Davis, have you given any thought of playing for him in Cleveland?
JG: I just want to play in the NFL. I would love the chance to play for Coach Davis again, he is a great man to play for. He is awesome, demanding and gets the most out of the players. He didn't want excuses, he always wanted answers. With him, it was always show me, don't tell me.
Q: Reflecting on your collegiate career, do you have any defining moments that you could share with us?
JG: My first game as a freshman in the Orange Bowl is one that will always stand out. Bibla and I were the first freshman offensive linemen to start for the Hurricanes, we came out through the smoke for a game against East Tennessee State. The shootout game against U.C.L.A. (49-45 Miami victory in the Orange Bowl), the 27-24 win against our rival Florida State and of course our National Championship game all were things that I will never forget. Just being part of that is really too much, I have enjoyed my time at Miami to its fullest, these are memories and images that I'll always remember.
Joaquin, from all of us at Bernie's Insiders, we would like to thank you for spending some time with us and good luck in the draft.
JG: Thank you very much and hope to see you all in Cleveland.