Chase Gonzalez thought his football playing days were over. The quarterback was a standout for Turlock Christian — amassing 4,612 passing yards and 38 touchdowns in two and half seasons — but the small school and team that only boasted 22 players total, didn't catch the attention of any college recruiters.
Gonzalez didn't give up, however, and was able to earn a position on the Division I University of Idaho football team last week — as a walk-on tryout.
“I am really excited to be part of a NCAA Division I football team. How everything happened was crazy, and I am thankful for the opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “My goal was always wanting to play Division I football; and knowing I am there it was literally a step of faith and it was a call I felt. Now I am trying my hardest to stay on the team and take the opportunity I get.”
Walking on was a Hail Mary call for Gonzalez. The former Eagle was sure his selection to play in the annual Blue-Grey National All Star Classic in Tampa Bay, Fla. after his senior campaign would result in a scholarship offer. But no offers came.
Gonzalez and his TC coach, Shane Smith, personally reached out to all Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivisions coaches during and after his senior year, touting Gonzalez' skills on the field. But to no avail.
“I spent hours upon hours emailing and speaking to coaches, speaking to every single FCS and FBS school and, luckily, I was able to come to Idaho,” Gonzalez said.
With his football future in the air, Gonzalez decided to attend University of Idaho to pursue his college degree. But after a few days at school, he was able to speak with head coach Paul Petrino, who told him to come to open tryouts. It was there that the coaching staff saw Gonzalez’ football abilities and offered him a position on the team.
Gonzalez hopes to get some playing time as a freshman and says he will do anything that is asked of him, considering the current Idaho roster holds five quarterbacks, including three freshmen, two of which are redshirting.
"I told (the coach) wherever he needs me, I am happy and excited to be part of the team,” Gonzalez said. “I have to show the coaches I am willing to work and I won’t quit; I will keep grinding out. I will give it all I got. I want to play football as long as I can.”
Smith was not at all surprised by Gonzalez' walk-on success, as he knew the former Eagle had the talent to pull it off.
“You know it wasn’t a surprise because I know what he was capable of. He probably could’ve gone to any D-I college, but between me and him calling coaches and trying to put him out there it was tough, but I am excited not shocked,” Smith said.
The University of Idaho Vandals started their season with a 6-40 loss to the University of North Texas. The Vandals are set to play the University of Wyoming at 1 p.m. Saturday.