For Penn State guard Steven Gonzalez, it’s a moment that does not age, running out of the tunnel at Beaver Stadium.
“It never gets old, it’s kind of one that Coach Franklin always kind of preaches to us, obviously stay focused on the game but enjoy those 14-15 seconds of running out of the tunnel,” Gonzalez said.
And every time, he does so with one person in mind.
“He was my rock and he was always the person I would go to talk to,” Gonzalez said.
Jorge Gonzalez always knew his son had a knack for football.
“He was like, I really think he’s going to make it,” Marlene Monzon, Steven’s mom, said.
At 6’4 and more than 300 pounds in high school, Gonzalez was well on his way, until one day at the beginning of his junior year of high school.
“Kind of the darkest time in my life,” Gonzalez said.
“It just shattered us, and Steven went to the hospital and we went there with him,” Monzon said.
Jorge Gonzalez suffered two heart attacks, and passed away.
“I mean I’m a quiet guy but at that time I wasn’t talking to anyone, I didn’t speak to anyone. People kept saying they were sorry and I was like, ‘Yep thank you appreciate.’ “
“I told him your life is never going to be the same,” Monzon said.
A week later, Steven had a football game to play, so he had a choice: suit up or sit out?
“I was scared. 16 year old, it could go either way,” Gonzalez said.
Steven suited up, and he excelled.
“Steven insisted he wanted to play and I felt like he’s like, ‘He would want this because this is what he liked,” Monzon said.
He earned a scholarship to Penn State, his father’s prediction came true, but then on signing day, the emotions all returned.
“It was tough. I had asked my coaches to put a chair with his name on it, kind of a reserved seat for him so he was there in spirit I felt, I knew he was there watching,” Gonzalez said.
A guiding presence from above.
“If I’m playing bad, I’ll tell him like, ‘Hey now help me out a little bit,’ ” Gonzalez said. “It’s all been about him, it’s kind of been the driving fuel, I’ll pray to him before every game.”
In the trenches, it’s an escape from the tragedy in his life, but the memory never strays away.
“I think he just connected with that. This is what his dad would’ve wanted and this is what I’m going to do,” Monzon said.