They say it’s all about who you know.
For former Turlock High football player Josiah Gonzales, it was all about who that someone knew.
Gonzales thought his football career was over when he graduated from Turlock High school in the spring of 2021.
The 5-11, 170-pound senior, who was the valedictorian for the Bulldogs’ Class of ’21, decided to go to UCLA to pursue a degree in business economics.
But a THS teammate’s foster mother’s son-in-law was best friends with somebody who played at UCLA.
“I just wanted a shot,” said Gonzales, now a redshirt sophomore for the 22nd-ranked Bruins, who travel to Salt Lake City today to take on Utah in their Pac-12 opener. “I just wanted to see if I could do it. And it worked out.”
That was the crack in the door Gonzales needed. He’s gone from playing almost no football in three years — his senior year at Turlock was truncated by COVID, and he didn’t see the field during his red-shirt and freshman campaigns in Westwood — to climbing above scholarship players on this year’s depth chart.
“I was coming into college thinking I’d never play another snap again,” said Gonzales. “I was just training on my own. I wasn’t allowed to receive any help from the coaches at all. So, I just kept training, hoping, and God blessed me with the opportunity.
“And the assistant coaches have been coming up to me, saying ‘Good job, keep up the good work.’ I’ve definitely felt the support.”
The undersized running back earned a roster spot as a walk-on, and on Sept. 9 at San Diego State, saw the field for the first time, carrying the ball one time for a 3-yard gain.
In fact, on his one rushing attempt, he was tackled by none other than former Turlock High standout Garret Fountain, a 6-4, 260-pound senior linebacker who is one of four team captains for the Aztecs.
“I think he actually did tackle me,” said Gonzales, who will square off against another Turlock alum when the Bruins play host to Cal and offensive lineman Everett Johnson on Nov. 25. “He wasn’t the only one, but he was in on the tackle.”
Gonzales isn’t yet on scholarship, but he’s getting playing time ahead of scholarship players.
His position coach is former NFL running back DeShaun Foster, who has sent four running backs to the NFL since joining the coaching staff in 2017. The former Bruin has mentored Zach Charbonnet (Seahawks), Joshua Kelley (Chargers), Demetric Felton (Bengals) and Brittan Brown (Raiders).
Does Gonzales dare dream that dream?
“Yeah, I do,” said Gonzales matter-of-factly. “Coach Foster is the best coach I’ve ever had … straight up. He’s always there for me.
“I’ll let God take me where he wants to, and I’ll give him the glory. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll still praise him. I just want to give this game everything I have while I have it.”
Whether football takes him to the NFL or if the NCAA proves to be the limit, Gonzales sees himself returning to the small-town life he knew so well growing up.
“I’m loving Los Angeles,” said Gonzales. “Great food, great people, I’m enjoying exploring a lot of different places. But I don’t know if I could live here. I love it for college, but I miss the small-town vibe, for sure.”