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KEEPING TRACK / JASON REID

Gonzalez Footloose After First Score at Cal

October 20, 1994|JASON REID

Tony Gonzalez admittedly looked silly, downright foolish, he quickly adds, but he couldn't have cared less.

Gonzalez, California's freshman tight end, caught a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dave Barr against visiting UCLA on Oct. 8 and jumped, yelled, flexed, etc., in celebration while clutching the football and flashing that grin of success Huntington Beach High football/basketball fans know so well. It was touchdown No. 1 of Gonzalez's collegiate career and the first of the afternoon, sparking Cal's 26-7 Pacific 10 Conference victory.

Usually not the type for flamboyant displays, Gonzalez felt he owed himself this one.

"Everybody was just looking at me and laughing," Gonzalez said. "I was just hoping to play when I got here, I never even thought about (scoring a touchdown) so soon.

"It was just incredible. It was so cool."

That assessment also applies to Gonzalez's first year at Cal, he says. So far, college life in Berkeley has been more than he told himself it would be, which means things are going according to plan.

You see, Gonzalez, 18, is a big-time pessimist. He enters every situation counting on the worst--but usually winds up with the best.

"Yeah, I look at things and always think they're going to be negative," Gonzalez said. "That way, I can hope for the best. It usually works out."

Gonzalez is one guy you wouldn't figure ever had negative vibes.

He is 6 feet 6 and 230 pounds, and he can do just about whatever he wants on a football field or basketball court. He was the object of most Division I recruiters' interest in both sports, and on the wish lists of those who knew they didn't have a shot.

As an Oiler senior last season, Gonzalez shared The Times Orange County player of the year award in football with Chris Draft of Valencia. Gonzalez caught 63 passes for 950 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, and led Huntington Beach with 131 tackles while playing inside linebacker. He also was all-county as a junior.

Just as skilled, if not more, on the hardwood, Gonzalez finished second in the county in scoring with an average of 25.3 points. He averaged 9.3 rebounds and completed his all-county double-double.

After wading through more mail last year than some small towns receive in the same span, Gonzalez decided to allow Cal to pay for his college education. The football and basketball teams split the bill.

Gonzalez's stats (five catches, 31 yards, one touchdown) are modest, but he shares the starting tight end spot as a true freshman for the Bears (3-3), definitely an accomplishment worth writing home about. Gonzalez sat out the team's first game while recovering from an injury he suffered to his right knee in the Orange County North-South All-Star game July 8.

He wears a knee brace as a precautionary measure, but has suffered no lingering effects from the injury. In fact, his position coach is surprised by his smooth transition.

"The biggest concern was the time factor," Cal tight end coach Scott Auker said. "He had to miss all of training camp, so we weren't sure if the knee would come around in time for us to get him up to speed to play in this league.

"But he came in and worked really hard, and he's feeling more comfortable every week with what we're doing on offense. He's a talented, talented young man who has unlimited potential."

Gonzalez, though, admits his transition has not been bump-free.

"The crowds are incredible," he said. "I'm used to like 5,000 people at high school games.

"We get crowds of 30,000, 50,000. When you look up there and see all those people, well, it takes some time to get used to."

It's a safe bet this, too, will work out in Gonzalez's favor.

*

Brad Saindon walked into the Laguna Beach High gym, looked at the player he had traveled from Colorado to see play and wondered with disgust if he could catch an earlier flight back home.

Saindon, women's volleyball coach at Colorado, traveled to the county in 1992 to recruit Rachel Wacholder, a player whose exploits, he heard, placed her among the nation's elite high school volleyball players.

But what Saindon initially viewed almost made him sick.

"She was so small and unassuming," Saindon said, "I thought I flew out there for nothing."

Wacholder's play, however, quickly changed his mind.

"The first ball I saw her spike was incredible," Saindon said. "I knew right there she is a great volleyball player."

Today, Wacholder, 19, is a sophomore outsider hitter and starter at Colorado. And despite her size (5-9), Wacholder is still convincing people she is for real.

"I don't really hear much about my height anymore," she said. "I'm not the tallest person, and I don't look very strong, but I don't think that really matters as long as I can do the same things someone really tall can."

There's little Wacholder can't do on a volleyball court.

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